Tips for creating a safe working environment | Pro Construction Guide
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Tips for creating a safe working environment

creating safe work sitesPlanning plus prevention to create a safe working environment equals increased productivity on jobsites set up with workers’ safety in mind. Efficiency rises and accidents decrease on well-organized, well-lit work sites where hazardous and combustible materials are properly stored, pathways and work areas are free of debris and firefighting equipment is near at hand.

Preventive strategies that lead to a safe working environment should be part of an overall safety plan devised before construction begins, says Nancy Quick, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance assistance specialist based in North Aurora, Ill.

“Contractors are required to look at the site to identify potential hazards, put an accident-prevention program in place and create a safe working environment,” says Quick. “Before work starts, the employer should talk to all crew members to discuss the accident-prevention plan.”

OSHA requires employers to teach employees how to recognize, avoid and eliminate unsafe hazards and to train competent crew members to regularly inspect the site, materials and equipment and correct or eliminate hazards.

“Training is a big part of overall safety plans – it’s key when it comes to creating safe work sites,” says Rob Matuga, assistant staff vice president of labor safety and health with the National Association of Home Builders. “When workers are given the right tools, a safe jobsite, and are properly trained in the use of tools and equipment, they will always work more efficiently and effectively.”

Preventive measures

On-site fires cause serious injuries, increase a project’s cost and slow down construction. OSHA requires each employer to develop and maintain an effective fire protection and prevention program throughout all phases of the construction.

Treat hazardous materials, such as adhesives, solvents, sealants, cleaners and caulks, with care. Store marked and labeled containers in a designated area. OSHA requires employers to compile a material safety data sheet for each hazardous material, identifying the hazardous chemical and the hazards it presents, to educate employees and ensure proper first-aid treatment should an accident occur.

Prevent accidents by keeping the building and construction site clean. “It’s important that contractors practice good housekeeping,” says Quick. “Workers should immediately pick up debris so people aren’t stepping on nails or tripping over pieces of scrap lumber. OSHA requires all work areas, passageways, exits and stairs be kept clear of debris to prevent falls.”

Matuga cites another reason for keeping jobsites clean: “Making sure a site’s clean makes a good first impression on both your clients and on OSHA representatives. To maintain a clean site, more and more contractors are making sure that interiors are being broom swept every day.”

Steps to create a safe working environment

Light the way

Place temporary lights or provide ample natural light to properly illuminate construction areas, ramps, first-aid areas, runways, corridors and storage areas. Equip lights with heavy-duty cords and with guards that prevent accidental contact with the bulb. When hanging temporary lights, use only work lights that are designed for suspension.

Prevent fires

Keep all flammable and combustible materials—such as oily rags, lumber, linseed oil and gasoline—away from pilot lights, torches and grinding and cutting tools that produce sparks. Post “No smoking” and “Hazardous materials” signs at areas where combustible materials are stored.

Provide fire extinguishers

Provide a fire extinguisher rated not less than 2A for each 3,000 square feet of protected building area. Position one or more extinguishers on each floor and adjacent to stairs, and near welding and combustible-material storage areas.

Remove hazards

Keep walkways, stairways, ramps, corridors and work areas free of fire and tripping hazards. During the work day, regularly remove: combustible waste; scrap lumber with protruding nails; discarded boxes; and other construction debris from in and around the building. Place the debris in a dumpster or designated trash/debris area.

Contain waste

Provide marked containers for the collection and separation of waste. Use covered containers for collecting garbage and hazardous and flammable waste, such as caustics, acids, harmful dusts, and oily and used rags. Store waste containers filled with flammable waste away from ignition sources.

Vent combustion equipment

Make sure fuel-powered equipment is properly vented and operated to avoid buildup of carbon monoxide. If you’re using the machines within the building structure, locate the equipment so exhausts are well away from combustible materials.

Supply first aid

Place an OSHA-compliant first-aid kit where it can be easily seen and accessed.

Set up sanitation stations

Supply workers with adequate toilet facilities, such as portable chemical toilets. Make sure there are areas where employees working with paints or hazardous materials can wash up. Dispense drinking water from tap-equipped portable containers that can be tightly closed.

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