Understanding Site Safety

Construction sites can be dangerous places to work, but implementing proper safety practices and procedures helps protect workers from harm. From identifying hazards to developing site safety plans, there are many ways your organization can help ensure safety for your workforce and construction safety compliance.

Confined Space Rescue, Technical Rescue, or Training

Why Site Safety Matters

Construction consistently ranks among the most dangerous industries. In 2021, the construction industry accounted for 46.2% of all fatal falls, trips, and slips.

Failing to prioritize safety leads to tragic loss of life and devastating injuries. It also hurts contractors through:

  • OSHA fines and violations
  • Lawsuits and legal liability
  • Increased insurance costs
  • Project delays and shutdowns
  • Reputation damage

By embracing safety excellence, contractors create an incident-free job site and positive work culture that boosts morale, productivity, and safety.

OSHA Safety Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legally binding safety standards for the construction industry. Violating OSHA regulations can result in substantial fines and penalties.

Essential OSHA standards related to construction safety include:

  • Fall Protection: Requires fall protection at 6 feet for general construction work. Details requirements for guardrails, safety nets, and harnesses.
  • Scaffolding: Mandates capacity ratings, safe assembly, guardrails, and competent person oversight.
  • Electrical: Outlines the use of GFCIs, cord inspection, wiring, and protection from overhead power lines.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Specifies proper eye, face, head, foot, and hand protection.
  • Excavation & Trenching: Covers protective systems, sloping, shoring, and egress requirements.

Contractors must have robust safety programs and procedures to ensure OSHA compliance. The OSHA requirements are vast and detailed; you can learn more here.

Identifying Jobsite Hazards

The first step in mitigating risks is recognizing hazards to meet site safety requirements. Construction sites contain many potential dangers that must be identified and addressed.

Falls are the leading cause of construction fatalities, including falls from roofs, ladders, and scaffolding. Electrocution hazards are present with power tools, cords, and overhead wires on site. Workers also risk being struck by falling objects, debris, moving vehicles, and heavy equipment.

Getting caught in or pinned by machinery and equipment poses additional hazards on the job site. Even confined spaces like tanks and tunnels introduce risks like asphyxiation and exposure to toxins. Staying vigilant by performing routine hazard assessments enables contractors to spot these dangers before they cause accidents. Empowering workers to report any unsafe conditions they notice through safety observation programs further improves hazard identification across the work site.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Providing appropriate PPE helps protect workers from job site hazards. Required PPE includes:

  • Hard Hats: Protect against falling objects and electrical hazards.
  • Safety Glasses/Goggles: Prevent eye injuries from particles and debris.
  • Work Boots: Sturdy, slip-resistant boots with steel toes guard against foot injuries.
  • Gloves: Protect hands from sharp tools, materials, and skin irritants.
  • Reflective Vests: Increase the visibility of workers around vehicle traffic.
  • Hearing Protection: Reduces noise exposure that can lead to gradual hearing loss.
  • Respirators: Filter out hazardous dust, gases, and particulates when engineering controls are insufficient.

Fall Protection Systems

Falls account for over a third of construction worker deaths, so implementing proper fall protection is critical. Several systems exist to prevent dangerous falls. Guardrails provide passive protection when installed adequately along unprotected edges and openings. Safety nets provide backup support by catching workers who fall, preventing impact. Personal fall arrest systems incorporate full-body harnesses and shock-absorbing lifelines to halt falls, but the anchors must withstand loads.

Positioning systems utilize shorter lanyards to allow movement while preventing free falls and are often used in steel erection and window washing. Floor holes can be covered or guarded to remove the fall hazard entirely. Perimeter control utilizes warning lines and barricades to keep workers away from fall edges. Regular inspection and enforcement of proper use ensures these systems provide maximum effectiveness against deadly falls.

Ladder Safety

Ladders provide access and elevation for many tasks. Follow these ladder safety tips:

  • Inspect ladders before each use for defects like cracks.
  • Set on stable, level surfaces and secure from movement.
  • Extend 3 feet above landing surfaces.
  • Maintain three points of contact when climbing.
  • Carry tools in belts or hoisted up to keep hands free.
  • Don’t lean too far – keep the center of the body between rails.
  • Use ladder cages or fall arrest systems for heights above 20 feet.

Train workers on risks like falls, electrical contacts, and tip-overs.

Scaffolding Safety

Scaffolds provide elevated, temporary work platforms but pose risks if not appropriately erected. Key elements of scaffold safety help prevent hazards. Scaffolds must have proper capacity ratings to support intended loads, and competent people need to oversee scaffold erection and disassembly. Full planking creates complete work platforms, and guardrails installed on all open sides and ends prevent falls.

Proper access must be provided to ascend and descend safely, and inspections before each work shift identify any issues. Additional fall protection connects when the work height exceeds the scaffold height by 6 feet or more. Tagging unsafe scaffolds prohibits use until deficiencies get corrected. Adhering to all scaffold safety requirements helps prevent collapse, falls, and other failures that endanger workers.

Electrical Safety

Electricity powers equipment and tools on job sites and introduces potential hazards, including shocks, electrocution, fires, and explosions. Staying safe requires following key electrical safety practices.

Using ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and routinely inspecting extension cords helps prevent shocks and fires, and prohibiting damaged power tool plugs and cords prevents contact with live current. Isolating and locking out live parts before work prevents accidental energization. Deenergizing overhead power lines when working nearby averts contact and maintaining adequate workspace clearance from lines and equipment is also essential. Waterproofing any electrical devices and connections exposed to rain prevents short circuits. Ultimately, ensuring only qualified electricians perform electrical work is crucial for safety.

Excavation & Trenching Safety

Excavation and trench collapse kill dozens of construction workers each year. Protect workers through:

  • Sloping or benching trenches properly based on soil type.
  • Using trench boxes to prevent collapse.
  • Installing shoring systems like aluminum hydraulic or timber shores.
  • Keeping spoils back at least 2 feet from trench edges.
  • Providing safe means of egress with ladders or steps.
  • Testing for low oxygen and hazardous gases.

In addition to the site safety areas listed above, construction sites must ensure safety in confined spaces, for vehicle traffic, and much more. That’s why connecting with workplace safety experts who can evaluate your job site and make expert recommendations is important.

Connect with Amerisafe Group's Safety Consultants Today

If you need to ensure site safety for your organization, Amerisafe Group can help. We have decades of experience providing workplace health and safety assessments, implementation, safety training, and more. Whether you need a safety consultant to perform respirator fit testing or your team needs to implement safety management systems, count on our expertise to help.

Our highly trained staff of certified safety professionals have proven experience developing safety programs for construction teams and all types of industries nationwide. Learn more about our safety services or contact us today to get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

The most frequent hazards are falls, electrocution, being struck by objects, and being caught in between accidents involving machinery and equipment. Environmental hazards like noise and silica dust are also common.

Proper personal protective equipment like hard hats, reflective vests, safety glasses, work boots, gloves, and respirators create a barrier against workplace hazards. PPE protects the head, eyes, face, hands, feet, lungs, and entire body.

Fall protection includes guardrails, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems with full body harnesses, covers over floor holes, and controlled access zones and perimeter gates to prevent falls.