Workers at construction sites engage in a variety of activities that could put them in danger, such as working from rooftops or scaffolding, using heavy construction equipment, or using temporary electrical circuits while operating electrical equipment and machinery in damp environments. In short, construction sites are dynamic environments where workers engage in many activities that could put them in danger. Thus, knowledge of construction site safety rules and tips is very important for every construction worker.
It was Jason Burzynski who made a famous quote, ‘No safety know injury. Know safety, no injury. According to Okonkwo (2012), safety in engineering involves all activities that will bring about the reduction, control, or elimination of all hazardous conditions in an engineering workplace that poses a threat to life and property. Safety is very important in the construction industry because there are a lot of risks involved.
The following safety slogans are commonly used in construction sites:
Work safely, otherwise don’t.
When you gamble with safety, you bet your life and the lives of your co-workers.
Safety is a full-time job, don’t make it a part-time practice.
The door to safety swings on the hinges of common sense.
Safety isn’t expensive, it is priceless.
Safety means first aid to the uninjured.
Chance takers are accident makers.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is your self-defense.
Unsafe acts will keep you in stitches if you’re lucky to survive.
Working safely is like breathing – if you don’t, you die.
Work safely today so that you can work tomorrow.
PPE is not the first option for safety but carefulness and obedience to instruction.
Adverse Effects of Not Observing Safety
- Loss of sight or hearing or hand(s) or leg(s)
- Loss of man-hour
- Downtime of important machines
- Financial losses
Hazard has been identified as anything within the working environment that has the potential to cause harm. Among many industrial hazards, fire hazard stands out due to its often devastating effects.
The sources of fire and ways of managing fire are usually classified as shown in Table 1 and illustrated by a fire triangle (Figure 1).
Table 1: Sources of fire and ways of managing them
Classes of Fire
There are four classes of fire viz:
Class A – This is caused by paper, wood, and cloth.
Class B – This is fire due to flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel, and liquefied solids
Class C – This is fire due to gaseous substances such as propane
Class D – Red metallic fires and electrical fires
Suitable Fire-Fighting Measures
Class A – Water
Class B – Foam extinguisher (combination of water and solid minerals that produces foam)
Class A, B, C, D – Dry powder
Class B, C, D – Carbon IV Oxide (do not use in confined place)
How to Fight Fire Using Fire Extinguisher
The process to fight fire using fire extinguishers is summarized in PASS.
P Pull the pin
A Aim low
S Squeeze the lever
S Sweep from side to size
To fight the fire, put yourself between the fire and the escape route at a safe distance (minimum of 1.5 – 2m) away from the fire.
Important Precautions When Fighting Fire
- Do not inhale smoke.
- An extinguished fire can ignite so watch it closely after extinguishing it.
- Always identify the type of extinguisher you have and the class of fire before use.
Manual Handling of Loads
- When using physical strength to bear the load, handle the load very close to you.
- Don’t lift the load with your back but with your knee because knee muscles are stronger than back muscles.
- Don’t bend down with load but look up.
- Don’t twist with load but turn with it.
Use of Computers
The minimum eye distance to monitor should be 50 cm to 70 cm.
Use of Entry of Hazardous Substances to the Body
- Inhalation (nose, eyes, mouth, lungs).
- Ingestion (mouth).
- Skin contact.
Safety Systems of Work
- Toolbox talk (TBT) – This is usually given by a safety officer before the commencement of work each day to encourage the workers to be conscious of safety always.
- Job safety/hazard analysis (JSA/JHA) – This is the technique focusing on jobs to identify risks involved in them before they occur.
- Permit to work (PTW) – This permit must be obtained before the commencement of any work. Having accessed all risks involved in work and devised means to prevent them, the permit to work can then be issued to the safety officer in charge of the site so that work can proceed.
Hierarchy of Control of Hazards
- Engineering control/isolation
- Administrative control/training
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Leading Safety Behaviours Every Employer or Worker Should Adopt
- Start (with health and safety).
- Recognize (people who behave and intervene where safety standards are compromised).
- Intervene (in any unsafe situation).
- Challenge (stubborn attitudes in wrong).
- Share (alert, experiences).
Other Important Things to Know
The greatest risk in excavation is a cave-in
The greatest risk to ship at sea is fire
The acceptable back tilt on the chair should be 90 – 1100
Ladders must be lightweight (maximum of 10 kg)
The correct ladder pitch should be 750 (1 in 4 rule)
When moving up a ladder, move one rung at a time.
Work a maximum of 30 minutes on a ladder and come down.
The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) standard number of working hours per day is 10 hours. After this number of hours, the natural laws of diminishing returns set in. Tiredness, fatigue, and nausea characterized by this period can lead to errors, mistakes, reworks, and injuries.
For ladders more than 5 m ensure you anchor them permanently at the top and bottom.
Other Important Rules for Workplace Safety
- Stay in your own work area.
- Maintain an acceptable speed limit at the site.
- Use pedestrian walkways always.
- Obey all health, safety, and environment (HSE) rules.
- Working at a minimum of 1.8 m above the ground, protect yourself with a harness (fall arrest system).
- Do not walk under load.
- Obtain authorization before excavation.
- Work a minimum of 7 m away from the 275 KV line to avoid flashover which can electrocute.
Scaffolds are systems used to work at height. They can be made of wood or steel.
Meaning of scafftags on scaffolds
Green scafftag – The scaffold structure is safe for use.
Yellow scafftag – Temporarily cannot be used.
Red scafftag – Do not use at all.
Signs to Observe When at the Construction Site
- Hazard signs
- Mandatory signs
- Prohibition signs
- Safe condition
- Firefighting equipment
Okonkwo, U. (2012). The Engineer: Professionalism in Society (1st edition). SCOA Heritage Systems, Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria.