Upholding Construction Safety and How It Effects The Worker And Employer

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by jkirk

Being properly prepared and trained is the key safety on the job

The right construction safety harness can save your life.

Image courtesy of Associated Press.

Construction Safety cannot be stressed enough in an industry that is fraught with dangerous situations.  For those of us who work within the construction industry you know its not a career path for the faint of heart.   It is both mentally and physically demanding and not to mention the risks that are taken to do the job entailed. It’s all too often that people joke about tradesman missing fingers from cutting them off on saws and what not.  But there are even greater construction safety hazards involved. Depending on the trade, workers face falls from heights as well as being crushed by overhead loads. Being in confined spaces with little to no breathable air, being buried alive was a worker killed on the job when insufficient hoarding collapses.

Falls from heights and Fall arrest systems improve construction safety

Construction safety harnessOne of the more common construction safety infractions seen on jobsites is improper or lack there of proper fall protection . On the exterior of buildings roofers, framers and siding and other cladding installers can work at extreme heights. In situations where insufficient work platforms and guard rails in place every worker that is working at a height of 10 ft or higher is required to be wearing a fall protection harness. The harness is connected to a life line rope via a lanyard which is a shock absorbing device Construction safety harness clipwhich slows the decent of a worker in freefall reducing injury. For a worker on a roof the use of a life line that’s connected at the peak in conjunction with a rope grab device the system acts as FALL restraint as it can be set so the worker cannot go beyond the edge the roof, the rope grab can be set at any point along the length of the life line.   Each worker has to have their own lifeline which also has its own anchor point on the structure, these anchor points must be able to hold 5000 lbs of dead weight.

The two main things that have to be taken into consideration with fall arrest Construction safety harness lanyardsystems is that every worker who will be using the system has to have a certification ticket to be using it and all the components of the system should not be used if they have been damaged or show signs of wear. They also have to be inspected annually by a licensed construction safety inspector.

Increasing construction safety with guard rails and protecting openings in floors

Railings are required for construction safety when there are work platforms, walk ways or at the edge of a roof to prevent workers falling off the edge. Such as system must consist of posts which are made of either a engineered metal railing system of wooden 2x4s. The railing system must have posts that cannot exceed a distance of 6 ft apart . The top rail must be either 36” or 42” inches off the work platform or floor depending on local regulations a midrail and toe kick must also be in place to prevent tools and debris from being kicked off the platform.  Any and all open holes in floors such as stair well openings must either have a guard rail system in place or be covered over completely with a minimum of 3/4 “ plywood and also be clearly marked, the same can also be said about window and door openings where the unit has not been installed yet.

Scaffolding systems used correctly can greatly enhance construction safety

Construction safety requires proper and safe scaffold use procedures.There are several types of scaffolding systems that are in use on jobsites, be it tubular frame staging which is the most common, tube and clamp scaffold which is more common on large commercial and industrial sites and the popular “pump jack” scaffolding system used by siding installers. The biggest construction safety infractions on jobsites with scaffolding set up is that of it being “incomplete” or improperly assembled, typically this involves at ground level by not having the proper base set up with 2×10’s under the levelling feet. From there inadequate bracing is very common, most workers will remove the x-braces off of the inside of the staging because it can get in the way of their task at hand, regardless it has to be there. Another big construction safety issue is not having enough width to the work platform.  Many times workers are standing on only one deck or plank at each level of the setup, however both OSHA and CSA standards require that the entire level being worked at to be decked in the full width for the scaffold.

One grey area that causes quite a bit of confusion is that of whether or not its allowable to climb theConstruction safety begins with mandatory scaffold safety training. ladder rungs on staging frames. Locally the department of labor officials state its not allowed as the rungs aren’t strong enough to hold a work however the manufacturer’s spec that the rungs are designed to carry the same weight of the 1 5/8 “ pipe portion of the frame. The CSA standards clearly state that if the rungs are no more than 12” apart it is perfectly fine to use the rungs to climb. Similarly the question of whether or not its allowable to set a staging deck on the ladder rungs. Speaking from experience there are times when the height needed to access isn’t possible from the top of the last frame and going up another frame will be too high.   Ultimately as long as the worker is using common sense and if they are doing something questionable it might be time to also implement fall arrest equipment. The big thing is that in order to be compliant with osha and csa if scaffold is in use there must be a certified construction safety person on site who can sign off on its setup on a daily inspection sheet that must completed before the scaffold can be used.

Ladder use and Misuse lead to serious construction safety concerns

Construction safety ladders should be type 1A.We all pretty much use ladders every week, no matter what size or type you have to make sure its A) The correct grade ladder.. too often I see guys using homeowner grade ladders on jobsites, these are classified as type 3. You can get away with type 2 ladders which are light duty commercial grade which have a 225 lb capacity however in a true professional jobsite environment its in your best interest to be using a Type 1 or Type 1A which have 250 and 300 lb capacities.

No matter which type of ladder your using it must always be on flat ground and well set so it doesn’t shift or tip over. If your using a ladder that has damaged rungs or legs it should be removed from use immediately as it will present a construction safety issue. If your using a extension ladder it needs to be tied off at the top and extend 3 feet above the point where you will accessing.

Consequences for Lack of construction safety compliance

The CSA is Canada's construction safety standards groupAccording to Emily Gardiner, Construction Safety Administrator at Chandos Construction in Calgary, Alberta. Depending on the region, the actual act of enforcing Compliance of O.S.H.A and C.S.A standards will vary. In smaller areas the department of labor has officials which will issue fines to contractors who do not comply where as with bigger market areas construction safety compliance is enforced from within by employing their own safetyOSHA is the US construction safety agency administrators who will do jobsite inspections to make sure things are up to snuff. If there are infractions found on the site, depending on the history of the crew they might only get a warning the first time round provided they make the required changes to fix any issues immediately. In the event that a crew has multiple construction safety infractions, fines may be issued to the supervisor and even the worker,  A “Stop Work Order” can also be issued, which can shut down a construction site for upwards of 2 weeks – which costs everyone money.

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6 comments on “Upholding Construction Safety and How It Effects The Worker And Employer

  1. Brian

    Wow great article , I clicked on a couple of highlighted words, the safety hazards, some sad but great reading material, and very informative. thanks for the reminder , and eye opener .

  2. Jon

    Thanks for article. These are things that are often ignored on site. The other day, I was driving past a commercial building project I often pass and saw a guy with his harness knotted to the basket on a lift! It didn’t seem very secure!

    Another factor to consider about ladder rating is to consider What you’ll be carrying up it. The rating should be high enough to not only carry your weight, but a bundle or two of shingles if that’s the kind of work you do.

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