Granted the nature of the industry, it should come as no surprise that each year there are thousands of injuries and even fatalities in the construction industry. A large number of these accidents involve machinery/operators, but tellingly, more than half of injuries on-site occur on the ground to spotters, laborers, passers-by, and even supervisors. Unfortunately, because of the brute strength of machines, injuries on-site are usually not first-aid injuries; more than often a trip to the hospital or an ambulance is the end result.
A review of the Occupational Safety & Health Administrators (OHSA) and Mine Safety & Health Administrator (MSHA) fatality alerts & bulletins reveals that virtually all of these accidents are avoidable. Performing routine safety checks and using caution at all times are the characteristics of a responsible crew member.
Beginning in 2020, IHSA will start its new Entry Level Construction program. This program provides general info on hazards and hazard recognition in the construction industry with a focus on occupational health and legal implications of health and safety. https://t.co/uieQ0VyU6B pic.twitter.com/XBfy9VMGEx
— IHSA (@IHSAnews) November 19, 2019
Here, we will list 5 of the top causes of accidents on-site and how to avoid them, but first let us remind you of the seriousness of this issue and that negligence is a criminal offence under the tort law. Also, proper safety training for all workers on-site is an absolute must both legally and ethically to ensure the safety of the crew. These days, most equipment dealers offer some sort of operating training and it is essential to take advantage of this. Obviously, the more complex the machine, the more in-depth the training should be.
1. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are the number one cause of injury across all industries and not just construction. It is important to clear your surroundings and clean up any mess that could cause a potential trip hazard. When getting onto a machine, check your gloves and work boots. Clean the mud off before climbing, and use “high grip” gloves for a secure hand hold. Always, use a three-point stance. Avoid carrying objects while climbing.
If the machine needs additional hand holds or steps installed, make sure you do so. An injury affects more than just the injured person. When exiting the machine, correct practice is to lower yourself in a controlled manner—never jump.
2. Loading/Unloading Equipment
When loading and unloading a machine, the risk of machine roll-over is very serious. One mistake can cause thousands of dollars in damages, serious injury, or even death. It is extremely important to ensure the ground you are loading on is level, and your machine is straight.
Whenever possible, use a spotter for guidance. Always keep people away from the sides of the machine during loading/unloading.
Always use proper tie-down procedures, losing your load on the road could be disastrous. As a driver, you should make sure your load is completely secure and there is no rattling or shifting. If it is a long haul, topping to check your load every so often is highly recommended.
3. People Crowding the Work Area
Ask any operator what their biggest headache is and they will probably tell you without hesitation—people unnecessarily around the machine. People love to stand at the edge of the hole and watch the dirt being moved. There is usually no reason for them to be there, just curiosity.
People on the ground should stay well away from the machine operating area. If there is ever need to contact the operator or cross his path, and he has no two-way radio it is important to make eye contact with the operator. Never assume. Review this important point at safety meetings. Foremen need to enforce this, not just the operator.
When ready to start work, use the horn to warn people to stay back; stop the machine if needed; and always check your surroundings before moving the machine.
4. Machine Swing Radius
Swing radius accidents are common. Unfortunately, because of the weight, speed and brute force of the machines, they are also usually fatal when people are involved. Thus, it’s important to rope off the swing radius around the machine or otherwise secure it. Allow no spectators; use a spotter to keep all people clear.
5. Operating Machinery on Slopes
Caution is always required when operating on slopes. Your machine may make it up the slope with a load but coming down may be another story. It is important to know the limits of the machine. Changing weather conditions, the previous day’s weather, and grade of the slope are all things to take into consideration while working with a machine of a slope. Also remember you are always better safe than sorry—so don’t push it.
Given the above recommendations and reminders—it’s important always to exercise common sense on the job site, especially when you’re new to the field.
As always, be safe and consider it your number one priority.