By Rachel Lynch
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
Great employers make a safe and productive work environment a top priority. May 6-12 is North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, which offers the perfect opportunity to ensure every worksite is free from hazards by refreshing everyone’s knowledge of best practices and procedures.
Tackling employee safety may seem like a lofty goal, but it can be easily attained if you break it down into three categories. In order to have operational worksites, it is imperative to discuss potential worksite hazards. Through proper hazard communication you can ensure that employees are aware of the risks they may encounter on the job.
Toxin and Chemical Safety
Inspecting the worksite prior to starting a job is beginner-level stuff, but sometimes going back to basics can be lifesaving. Asbestos and carbon monoxide are just two examples of invisible hazards to prepare for when thinking about toxin and chemical safety.
Asbestos is a known carcinogenic mineral that was commonly used in building materials through the 1970s. Seventeen percent of construction injuries are due to exposure to toxic materials, the most deadly of which is asbestos. Exposure to the toxin is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer, which greatly impacts the construction community. There are three different forms of the cancer – in the lungs, heart, or abdominal cavity. By taking ownership of the worksite and completing necessary inspections, asbestos can be abated before unnecessary risks are endured by your frontline workers.
Learn more about the dangers of asbestos exposure for construction workers here.
Similarly, employees can prevent worksite injuries by being mindful of potential radon risks. Radon is an invisible, tasteless, and odorless gas found in every state in the country. It occurs naturally during soil decay and can accumulate in basements and the lowest levels of a building. Exposure to the gas is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Those most at risk are people in underground work areas such as mines and buildings. Like asbestos, the only way to know a if a building has high radon levels is to test it. Consult Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines to find the threshold for your workspace.
Fall protection may seem rudimentary, but the risk is real. Nearly half (48 percent) of all fatal falls in private industry involve construction workers. Annually, between 150 and 200 workers are killed and more than 100,000 are injured as a result of falls at construction sites. Those falls do not need to be from extreme heights either, because employees are at risk any time they are working at a height of four feet or more. Between 1992 and 2005, about one-third of the fatal falls in construction were from roofs, 18 percent were from scaffolding or staging, 16 percent were from ladders, and eight percent were from girders or structural steel. The other 25 percent of fatalities included falls through existing floor openings, from non-moving vehicles, or from aerial lifts, among others.
To reduce risk, use aerial lifts or elevated platforms to provide safer work surfaces, erect guardrail systems with toeboards and warning lines, or install control line systems to protect workers near the edges of floors and roofs. Additionally, cover floor holes and/or use safety net systems or body harnesses to protect workers.
According to government data from 1992 to 2003, an average of 43 construction workers were killed each year by electrical contact. In 2010, electrical hazards accounted for 10 percent of all fatalities on construction sites. Among non-electricians, such as construction laborers, carpenters, supervisors of non-electrical workers and roofers, failure to avoid live overhead power lines and a lack of basic electrical safety knowledge are major concerns. The use of the acronym BE SAFE can quite literally assist in safety. The acronym defines the potential electrical hazards: Burns, Electrocution, Shock, Arc Flash/Arc Blast, Fire, and Explosions. Providing your workers with some basic electrical knowledge can be lifesaving.
You can ensure a safer worksite for your employees year-round – not just during North American Occupational Safety and Health Week – by instituting a few simple changes and encouraging mindfulness and awareness of their surroundings. Software like HCSS Safety, which has components for field workers and safety managers, can help your crews run pertinent safety meetings, perform required inspections, and report near misses, observations, and incidents from the field and analyze data to help make job sites safer.
See how you can get up and running quickly in the field with HCSS Safety here.
To learn more, visit hcss.com/safety or call 800-683-3196.