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How Do You Control Hazards in the Construction Industry? Controlling Hazards in 2022

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Why Does “Safety” Matter?

Before OSHA was established, approximately 14,000 workers were killed annually due to work-related incidents. The OSH Act was implemented due to these rising mortality rates. The goal was to raise awareness and to put safety at the forefront of the minds of employees and employers. Since OSHA's establishment, work-related incidents and fatalities have decreased by 60%. OSHA’s goal is to “...ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance” (OSHA).

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous and hazardous work industries out there. On average, over 1,000 construction workers die due to construction site incidents each year, which accounts for 30% of all work-related deaths (BLS).

It is important that everyone on the worksite has safety at the forefront of their minds. OSHA has implemented many industry-specific standards and regulations to maximize its efforts in keeping construction workers safe.

What is Hazard Control?

Hazard control is when both employees and employers are taking the necessary steps to protect workers from safety and health risks that are present in the workplace. Hazard control is all about working towards eliminating the hazard entirely, although in many situations this is not always the case.

Why is it Important to Prevent and Control Workplace Hazards?

Utilizing effective controls protects workers from hazards, and helps them to avoid injuries, illnesses, and incidents. There are many different types of controls, these will be discussed later on in this article. The type of control that is used to eliminate or avoid a hazard is crucial to the safety of any employees in the working environment.

EHS Management System

Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) is a term that refers to a process that ensures the work undertaken by a company does not cause environmental damage. It also helps to keep workers' health and safety a priority. It also ensures the company consistently complies with OSHA standards.

An EHS management system is a collection of activities, policies, and procedures that carries out goals defined by the environment, health, and safety programs.

The goal of an EHS management system is to protect workers from job-related injuries and illnesses and identify and mitigate the physical, chemical, and biological hazards in the workplace. It also works towards improving training and communicating company objectives to promote a safe and healthy work environment.

Beginning Methods of Control

OSHA requires employers to provide safety training for their employees. This training must include the rights they have as employees, and safety procedures and policies they are required to follow, and information on the different hazards that are present on their worksite. It must also teach them how to properly handle or avoid these hazards as well as how to report them to their employers.

Safe Work Habits and Practices

Employees have a responsibility to utilize their safety training every day to keep themselves, as well as other employees, safe while they are working. Safety training not only provides them with information but also arms workers with the ability to develop safe working habits by following the procedures that are implemented to protect them. This lowers the chance of safety and health risks.

Hierarchy of Controls

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The hierarchy of controls is an approach to worksite safety that categorizes protective measures into five different stages. From most to least effective, these controls are:

  1. Elimination
  2. Substitution
  3. Engineering Controls
  4. Administrative Controls
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The hierarchy of controls is fundamental to workplace safety. It’s at the core of environment, health, and safety programs and is heavily used throughout all industries. Each category is a line of defense against health hazards and safety risks.

1. Elimination

Elimination is the best possible defense against hazards. When a hazard is eliminated, it is removed entirely from the worksite where it can no longer affect working employees.

For example, an employer trying to eliminate the hazard of falling could suggest completing a project on ground level rather than in the air

2. Substitution

Substitution is the second most effective level of control. It means replacing the hazard with something else–something non-hazardous or even less hazardous.

An example of this level of control could be an employer that has replaced a piece of cutting equipment with one that has fewer exposed sharp edges. The less hazardous piece of equipment would be a substitute for the more hazardous piece of equipment.

3. Engineering Controls

Engineering controls would be the third option in the hierarchy of controls but still works to protect employees. Utilizing engineering controls means physically separating working employees from the hazard.

For example, an employer that has guardrails or partitioners installed to separate his workers from a fall hazard would be an engineering control.

4. Administrative Controls

The idea of this level of control is to change the way the employees are working in order to protect them. Administrative controls often come in the form of rules or signs.

For example, an employer places a “do not enter” sign at the entrance of an area that contains falling objects would.

5. Personal Protective Equipment

The use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is the last line of defense. If the hazard cannot be removed, replaced, or engineered in any way, the last remaining option is to provide the employees with protective equipment. This equipment includes such things as hard hats, goggles, gloves, and boots.

How Do You Control Hazards? First, You Should Know What They Are. Let's Go Over The Four Most Common Hazards

There are four common hazards that account for more than half of work-related deaths in the construction industry. These four hazards are often referred to as the fatal four. OSHA estimates that eliminating accidents caused by the fatal four would save more than 500 people each year. These four hazards are:

  1. Fall hazards
  2. Electrical hazards
  3. Struck-by hazards
  4. Caught in/between hazards

1. Falls

Falls are the most common hazard and the leading cause of workplace injuries throughout all industries. In the construction industry, there are a couple of different falls to account for. The first type of fall refers to slips or trips on ground level. The second type of fall refers to falls from heights, which are considerably more dangerous and have a much higher rate of fatality.

Slips and Trips

Slip and trip falls (walking and working surfaces training) are more hazardous for workers than they appear to be. Employees in the construction industry find themselves working on many different types of walking surfaces. When working on a worksite outdoors, a construction crew could work on a variety of walking surfaces. A few different examples could include but are not limited to:

  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • Snow
  • Gravel
  • Grass

When working indoors on a construction site there are many different types of walking surfaces that also present slip and trip hazards. Some examples of these walking surfaces are:

  • Cement
  • Tile
  • Grating
  • Dock boards
  • Metal surfaces

The different variations of walking-working surfaces that an employee may work on, makes hazard control all the more necessary. Some fall hazard control methods that are most commonly used in the construction industry are:

  • Slip-resistant footwear
  • Good housekeeping
  • Sufficient lighting
  • Personal fall protection systems
  • Falls From Heights

When it comes to falls from heights, there are quite a few different control methods that are used to protect employees who work up high. Fall protection (fall protection training) is one of them. When discussing fall protection, there are three main categories:

  1. Fall prevention refers to safety methods such as railings and barriers that set boundaries to prevent workers from being exposed to the fall hazard.
  2. Fall restraint systems also restrict workers from reaching fall hazards. But rather than using physical barriers, harnesses and connective devices are utilized.
  3. Fall arrest systems are put in place to stop a worker in the act of falling from going past a predetermined point.

2. Electricity

Electrocution is the second-leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Electrocution hazards and shock hazards, though seemingly similar, are very different. A shock hazard means that an employee is at risk of being shocked and injured, but not killed. An electrocution hazard means that an employee is at risk of being electrocuted and killed. Learn more in our electrical safety training.

When working in the construction industry, there are quite a few ways that a working employee could encounter fatal amounts of electricity. Some examples of fatal electrocution accidents include contacting power lines and other energized objects.

Staying ahead of the problem and utilizing preventative measures or control methods help by decreasing the risk of electrocution. A few control methods that are commonly used to prevent electrocution would be:

  • Eliminate the hazard by de-energizing any power lines that are within a certain proximity of the construction site.
  • When working around energized lines, substitute normal tools with tools that are double insulated, non-conductive, and undamaged.
  • Install flagged warning lines to establish a boundary for the minimum approach distance around the energized lines.
  • Train employees on how to stay safe when working around energized lines.
  • Provide PPE such as insulated gloves, jackets, or boots to employees.

3. Struck-by

Struck-by incidents occur when a worker comes into forcible contact with an object that is flying, falling, swinging, or rolling.

Flying objects can include thrown debris or tools or pieces of material separating from a tool or machine. The most common struck-by incidents are nail gun accidents, which are also considered a flying object hazard.

Tools or other material falling from an elevation to a lower level is considered a falling object (falling objects training), which can cause a struck-by incident. Collapsing materials or structures would not be considered a struck-by incident, however.

Swinging objects in a construction zone are usually materials that are being mechanically lifted. For example, a crane load that sways or swings when a worker is inside this danger zone is considered a swinging object.

A rolling object generally includes anything that rolls, moves, or slides on the same level as an employee. On a worksite, these are usually vehicles or heavy equipment that is in motion.

There are quite a few different control methods that can be used to help construction workers safely operate around struck-by hazards. A few of these control methods are:

  • Employee safety training
  • Pre-shift inspections of equipment and materials to minimize the chances of an incident occurring
  • Utilizing the proper PPE (PPE training), such as a hard hat

4. Caught-in or -Between

Caught-in or -between accidents are defined as “any accident where a worker is caught inside of or in-between different objects.” These can arise from a variety of situations but generally, you will see these hazards come as a result of being caught in or between machinery, tools, vehicles, work materials, or trenches.

When working near heavy equipment, it can be easy to lose track of just how close your hands or feet are to moving parts. It is important to be constantly aware of your proximity to equipment, whether it’s heavy equipment like a forklift or the moving parts of a hand tool. Other methods of control include:

  • Wearing proper PPE which includes tight clothing that won’t catch on anything
  • Using machine guards (machine guard training)
  • Using safeguard devices

How do you control hazards? A great first step is to know what they are. Hard Hat Training construction safety training courses are built to teach just that as well as how to minimize those hazards.

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