June is National Safety Month, so we thought this week was the perfect opportunity to provide a few construction site safety tips for workers and employers. (It’s also National Accordion Awareness Month if anyone was curious.)
For these safety tips we focused on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards in Construction. In the first part, we countdown Number 10 through 6 on the list with a brief explanation of the standard or hazard along with some general tips for workers to keep in mind along with some of the requirements for employers to follow in order to provide a safe work environment for their employees.
10. Subpart P – Excavations – 1926.651 Specific Excavation Requirements.
Site excavations and trenching work pose a number of hazards including cave-ins, falling loads, falls and hazardous atmospheres. An excavation is any man-made depression, cut, cavity or trench in the surface created by earth removal.
Workers: Workers should never enter an unprotected or uninspected trench excavation. If you are working in a trench that is 4 feet or deeper a safe means of exit must be provided within 25 feet of where you are working. Make sure you are familiar with the closest exit point so you can quickly get out in the event of cave-in or collapse. Never work underneath loads being lifted or dug out of the excavation by heavy equipment. Never work in an excavation where water has accumulated or is accumulating unless steps have been taken to protect you from potential hazards such as drowning or cave-ins.
If operating excavation machinery, keep all excavated materials and equipment at least 2 feet from the edge or excavations.
Employers: Call before you dig! Employers are required to contact utility companies to have utility locations such as underground electrical, sewer and water lines and gas lines marked. Excavations, protective systems and surrounding areas are to be inspected daily by a competent person before work begins each day to ensure that it is safe for workers to enter the area.
Employers are required to test and control atmospheric conditions when they are known to exist or a reasonable potential for their existence is present. If hazardous atmospheres exist, employers must provide adequate ventilation and respiratory protection to workers and have all necessary rescue equipment on hand.
9. Subpart L – Scaffolds – 1926.453 Aerial Lifts.
Aerial lifts fall under scaffolding and are vehicle-mounted devices used to elevate workers such as articulating and extendable boom platforms, vertical towers and aerial ladders. Hazards associated with the use of aerial lifts include fall and ejections from the lift platform, tip-overs and structural failures of the lift, electric shock, contact with overhead objects or ceiling and being struck by objects falling from lifts.
Workers: Workers must be trained and authorized in order to operate an aerial lift. Inspect all vehicle and lift components based on the manufacturer’s recommendations before operating an aerial left to ensure it is in safe working condition. Never operate a lift if any component is missing, damaged or appears defective.
Always stand on the floor of the lift platform or bucket when working, never use a ladder or other device to increase your working height. Make sure that your harness or restraining belt and lanyard are securely attached to the boom or bucket and that they are in good working condition.
Never exceed the load-capacity or the vertical and horizontal reach limits of the lift. Lower the lift platform when driving the lift and stay at least 10 feet away from overhead lines.
Employers: Employers should ensure that all workers operating aerial lifts receive proper training before being authorized to use them and provide retraining in the event a worker has an accident while operating a lift, hazards are discovered, a different type of lift is being used or if the workers is observed improperly operating a lift.
In addition to ensuring that all aerial lifts are in good operating condition, employers are also responsible for having work zones inspected for hazards including holes or unstable surfaces, overhead obstructions, inadequate ceiling heights and slopes or ditches. Employers should also have power lines de-energized when possible when workers are in the vicinity.
8. Subpart C – General Safety and Health Provisions – 1926.020 General Safety and Health Provisions.
The purpose of this standard is to protect construction workers from being required to “work in surroundings or under working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to his health or safety” by contractors and subcontractors.
Workers: The key takeaway from this standard for workers is that they should know that there are protections in place for their safety while working on the construction site. This includes receiving proper training for specific job duties and being provided with personal protective equipment (PPE). Workers should never operate any machinery or equipment if they have not been properly and adequately trained on its safe operation.
Employers: Employers are required to implement safety programs in order to protect workers and prevent accidents. A competent person(s) is required to provide inspections of job sites, equipment and materials and includes ensuring that non-compliant tools and machinery are taken out of use by locking or tagging or removing them from the job site Construction standards take precedence over any similar or applicable general industry standard.
In addition to providing necessary PPE to employees at no cost, employers are also required to provide training to all employees on hazards and all related matters for construction standards applicable to a worker’s job duties.
7. Subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances – 1910.1200 Hazard Communication.
This is a general industry standard that focuses on requirements for employers that have hazardous chemicals in their workplace. Some examples of hazardous materials commonly found at construction sites include lead, silica, asbestos and treated wood or wood that will be cut and generate dust. Certain building materials also contain hazardous chemicals such as zinc, cadmium, beryllium and mercury.
Workers: Workers should be able to read and use Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for any hazardous chemical being used at the construction site. Employees should wear proper PPE when handling hazardous chemicals and should clean up any spill when they occur.
Employers: Employers are required to implement a written hazard communication program that includes an inventory of all hazardous chemicals used at the site. All container of hazardous substances must have a hazard warning and be labeled. Employers should have a MSDS available for each hazardous substance. Employees should be trained regarding the risk of all hazardous chemicals along with proper handling instructions.
6. Subpart E – Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – 1926.100 Head Protection.
Hard hats are commonplace at the construction site. They protect workers a number of hazards such as falling and flying objects, electrical shock and other impacts.
Workers: Workers are required to wear head protection wherever there is the potential for being struck in the head, which is basically the entire time you are on the construction site. Possible scenarios include falling tools or debris, accidental nail gun discharge, contact with electrical hazards or swinging construction equipment. Workers should inspect their hard hat for any cracks, dents or any signs of deterioration. Hard hats should fit snugly on your head and not come loose during normal movements or work activities.
Employers: Employers are responsible for providing all employees with head protection that meets consensus standards outlined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or is constructed in accordance with one of those consensus standards. Employers are not allowed to charge employees for the cost of head protection or require them to provide their own hard hat unless they do so voluntarily. Hard hats should be kept in good condition and be replaced immediately if they suffer a heavy blow or electric shock.
Be sure and check back in on Thursday when we wrap up our countdown of Construction Site Safety Tips based on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards in Construction.