Guide to Job Site Safety
Preventing hazards on the job site starts with building a safety-focused workplace culture, and education is key for this. Providing training can prevent incidents at work, which reduces downtime and workers’ compensation claims. With a culture of workplace safety, everyone on the job site feels safer, an essential factor for psychological well-being and performance. Discover more about creating a safer work environment with this guide to job site safety.
Types of Job Site Hazards
There are several types of hazards present at various job sites. While construction sites often have a lot of concerns to keep in mind, other workplaces can also present various hazards. Some of the most common types of hazards encountered at workplaces include:
Scaffolding hazards include several types of area dangers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires all employees erecting and working on scaffolding to have appropriate training. This training includes learning the potential hazards present when working on scaffolding and how to avoid them.
For instance, electrical hazards may be present when scaffolding stands near electrical lines. Scaffolding safety also includes learning about fall hazards.
Falls are another category of workplace hazard that comes with its own regulations and training. Workers who are at risk of falling need to have fall arrest equipment for themselves and guardrails around the scaffolding to prevent incidents. Due to the height of scaffolds and the high risk of falls or dropping objects, workers need to know fall safety tips and how to prevent falling object hazards.
To mitigate these potential dangers around scaffolding, workers must have appropriate training. One type of course earns the student a certificate as a Scaffold Safety Specialist.
Fall hazards include those presented from working at heights of 6 feet or above. Workers need to understand the dangers of falling off such heights and the fall safety measures needed to prevent physical harm. Part of understanding safety procedures to prevent falls comes from going through OSHA-required fall training.
OSHA mandates that those working 6 feet or higher off the ground have a written certificate proving the worker’s completion of a training program. One type of this training is the Walking-Working Surface and Fall Protection Specialist.
Along with training, employers must provide measures to protect workers or to prevent falls. All elevated surfaces with open sides, holes or runways need guard measures around them, including both toe boards and guardrails.
Other fall protection measures may include safety harnesses, handrails, safety catch nets and stair rails. During training, workers identify these safety measures and how to correctly use them. They must also understand what parts they play in the job site’s fall protection plan. With training, workers will be able to prevent falls and respond appropriately if an incident occurs.
Trenching and Excavation Hazards
Construction sites with trenching or excavation present serious hazards for those who work in or around the trenches. The greatest hazard of trenching and excavating is a collapse of the dirt onto those working inside. Because a cubic yard of soil can weigh the same as a car, workers must take precautions while working in or around excavations or in trenches. Other concerns of working in trenches or excavations are falling equipment, air quality and striking underground utility structures.
Though OSHA does not expressly mandate safety training for those working in or around excavations, that education can protect workers from the hazards of this type of work. A Trenching and Excavation Specialist certificate shows the student successfully completed training to prove themselves competent at identifying and eliminating hazards. OSHA does require that such a person check the excavation site before others enter the area. The training proves the individual has the knowledge required to prevent accidents.
Stairway and Ladder Hazards
Ladders and stairways, like scaffolding, present workplace hazards. Metal ladders, for instance, present electrical concerns, meaning workers shouldn’t use these near electrical lines. Additionally, workers must watch out for objects falling off ladders onto those below. All types of ladders and stairways have fall hazards. Workers who will use them must undergo training in ladder safety, per OSHA requirements.
The training specific to the job site should include information about fall hazards, how to choose and set up ladders, recognizing maximum loads for ladders and how to properly use fall protection. One course that covers this information and more is the Walking-Working Surface and Fall Protection Specialist. This course includes information on fall protection and using a variety of ladders and other means of reaching walking work surfaces.
Chemical hazards happen when substances that could cause physical harm or damage to property are at a work site. Potential dangers from working around chemicals could include lung irritation or damage, skin problems, illness or death. Workers who may experience toxic chemical exposure should have an understanding of what to do.
The types of chemicals or hazardous materials will dictate the specific training required. OSHA does require a certificate showing completion of training for those working around or with hazardous chemicals.
There are several courses that cover specific situations on chemical safety. Anyone who needs training should consider the potential hazards faced at work when signing up for a course. Options include a Hydrogen Sulfide Safety: Train the Trainer course, a Petroleum Safety Specialist course, a Certified Environmental Manager course and many others. With appropriate training, workers can recognize and avoid chemical hazards.
While most job site safety focuses on physical health, the mind can also face dangers at work. Psychological hazards include various sources of stress or things that can negatively impact mental health. Examples of these hazards include:
- Difficult work shifts that don’t allow for adequate rest between
- Hazardous environments creating fear for personal health and well-being
- Workplace violence
- Discrimination from coworkers or supervisors
- Harassment from supervisors or coworkers
- Persistent low-level noise at the workplace
- Having too high of a workload
Creating a supportive, safe work environment can help promote mental wellness and psychological safety. Additionally, measures to prevent or correct discrimination and harassment may involve training in diversity and communications. Workers who feel safer mentally and physically at work may perform better and be more productive.
Lastly, hazard communication is vital to helping workers who don’t have the training to recognize dangerous locations, products or situations. Using signs or labels to communicate nearby hazards through both words and pictures is a highly effective method of conveying this information.
Workers should have access to information about chemicals and the hazards they present through readily available material safety data sheets (MSDSs). Those handling products that have MSDSs will need to know how to read the sheets and protect themselves from any dangers present.
Having a spill control plan in writing and training workers on its contents ensures everyone knows what to do if a chemical spill happens. Hazard communication also includes unspoken things like providing workers with personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe when working around dangerous substances.
To bring the workplace into compliance with the most recent version of the Hazard Communication Standard, someone at the job site needs training as a Hazard Communication Specialist.
Safety Tips for the Job Site
To mitigate the hazards inherent with any job site, training is vital. Workplaces also need equipment, signage, security and safety checklists as part of a culture of safe operations.
Job Site Equipment and Tools
Equipment and tools used at the job site must be safe to use and protected from damage and thieves. Vehicles need regular maintenance to prevent incidents caused by faulty machinery. Tools should also undergo regular checks and maintenance. For instance, cutting tools allowed to become dull present a greater danger to those using them. The worker must put more force behind a dull tool to cut, meaning they have a greater chance of the tool slipping and causing injury.
Cleaning tools and storing them properly at the end of the day can also protect workers. Safely storing tools in their designated spots prevents accidents from falling tools stacked on top of each other incorrectly. Proper equipment storage also ensures workers returned everything at the end of the day, reducing the chances of missing, lost or stolen tools.
Another means of keeping work equipment and tools safe is by labeling them as exclusively for use at the work site. To provide an additional layer of security, equipment managers should record the identification numbers of heavy equipment such as cranes, tractors and other mobile equipment.
Signs and Labels on the Job Site
Labels and signs on the job site are crucial for alerting others of hazards, informing them of changes and making requirements for certain areas clear. Posting warning signs is a requirement when those in the area could face possible or immediate dangers.
Those signs must comply with OSHA’s 1910.145 standard, which covers tags and accident prevention signs on the job site. This standard outlines everything from the color and wording on the signs to their placement. By following those requirements, the signs will be universally understood by everyone at the workplace, even new employees who’ve changed jobs from the same industry.
With signs, employers must ensure their workers understand the messages by instructing them about sign meanings. For instance, workers must understand the differences between a danger sign, which indicates immediate danger, and a caution sign, which shows the potential for hazards.
Security on the Job Site
A secure job site protects the psychological health of workers who don’t have to fear dangers from those within or outside of the site. Workers can also feel more comfortable about their personal vehicles near the job site.
Job site security benefits employers, too. By using security personnel and taking anti-theft measures, employers may enjoy lower insurance premiums due to needing to make fewer theft claims.
To ensure safety and security on a job site, require all visitors to only enter through a single, clearly marked entrance. Require visitors going into a hard hat zone to put on appropriate PPE. A log of site visitors, security cameras and a security guard can also help deter thefts or other crimes. Plus, cameras and logs can provide evidence to police investigating incidents that happen on or near the job site.
Example of a Job Site Safety Checklist
Create job site safety checklists for various areas of the workplace. Go through the checklists to ensure the areas meet all OSHA requirements. Streamline those processes by having safety lists based only on the tools, equipment and other situations present at a job site. For instance, manufacturing facilities that don’t have excavations don’t need a checklist for trench and excavation safety.
One example of a job safety checklist might be the one below for ladders and has its basis in OSHA guidelines for workplace ladders.
For all types of ladders, check for the following:
- Eliminate slipping hazards on the steps and sides of the ladder, such as oil or grease.
- Verify the maximum load the ladder can handle.
- Clear the area for placement of the ladder and verify it is stable and flat.
- Put a barrier around the ladder or secure it if someone could knock it over.
- Do not allow materials or people to block either end of the ladder.
- Choose non-conductive ladders for working near electrical sources.
- Avoid moving the ladder while in use.
- Face toward the ladder when moving up or down and use at least one hand to maintain a grip on the ladder.
- Do not carry materials up the ladder that could disrupt balance.
After completing the checklist for understanding how to safely check a ladder and use it, identify the type of ladder and follow the requirements for that ladder type. Examples include step ladders, fixed ladders and portable ladders. The checklist below is for stepladder safety and use:
- Check that the ladder has a locking device or metal spreader to lock the ladder in its open position and prevent it from collapsing.
- Avoid climbing a side that does not have designated steps.
- Do not stand on the top step of a stepladder.
The checklist you follow will depend on the area of your work site and the equipment you or your employees use there. Look for OSHA requirements for a category of equipment and specific equipment types under that category.
Contact NASP for Job Site Safety Training
Improve job site hazard safety through training. Connect with us at the National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP) to sign up for safety courses. We have multiple options in our course catalog to provide certificates in various areas of workplace safety. Plus, these courses inform on the latest OSHA-required safety topics to meet compliance. Stay compliant and build a safer work site with our job site safety training options that take a practical approach to workplace safety.
Reach out to us today for more information about our safety training courses.