Construction jobs are consistently among the most dangerous jobs in the GCC region. But unfortunately, it is ubiquitous in all advanced countries where construction is thriving. Even so, construction site safety has made tremendous progress over the years as governments implement new, stricter regulations and construction technology advances.
Protecting workers is still the top priority in any construction project. By keeping workers safe, contractors can prevent incidents that ultimately impact their bottom line. In addition to detailed and exhaustive safety guidelines, they leverage technology to boost job site safety. Digital solutions such as project management software and construction site safety app are increasingly becoming hardwired into the construction process, optimizing construction site monitoring and safety faster than ever.
Common safety hazards in construction
Preventing construction accidents and increasing overall site safety begin with identifying all potential safety hazards. Factoring these safety hazards into the project plan helps contractors develop effective prevention and mitigation measures. Some of the most common ones include:
- Falls – Many construction tasks involve working at height, with workers having nothing to protect themselves, but a standard harness anchored to a scaffolding. Even with an effective fall arrest system, fall accidents may still occur due to external factors. For example, unstable scaffolding and the lack of guardrails are among the most common causes of falls in construction.
- Explosions and fires – Construction work often involves using flammable gas and chemicals. Poor handling of these materials could lead to fires or explosions, which are among the most fatal accidents that can happen at a construction site. Therefore, contractors must implement construction site fire safety to prevent or minimize these accidents.
- Heavy equipment – Operating tractors, cranes, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment is undoubtedly risky. That’s why operators must obtain a special license to drive these vehicles. There have been many cases of people working or standing close to these pieces of equipment getting injured when hit by a dangling crane hook, or backhoe bucket, or run over by the tractor itself.
- Electric shock or burn – Working with live high-voltage wires is part of the everyday life of some construction workers, particularly welders and electricians. One wrong move, and they can suffer a fatal injury. The same sources of electricity are present in the building even when construction is over. The only contrast is that the electrical system in a finished building is concealed within the structure, whereas the one at a construction site is out in the open.
- Confined spaces – Construction workers may need to work in trenches, tunnels, crawl spaces, and other places with limited air supply and ventilation. Some confined spaces can even trap hazardous gases.
- Noise exposure – Many construction workers report experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus. This is due mainly to prolonged exposure to loud noises from machines and vehicles at the construction site. Therefore, contractors and subcontractors must ensure workers have the proper protective gear.
Other safety hazards are unique to specific construction projects. For example, dam construction exposes workers to high water pressure and the risk of getting trapped when the structure collapses. Contractors must understand the project’s scope and specifications, as well as identify the potential hazards to prevent accidents.
How contractors improve construction site safety
Construction safety guidelines constantly improve as contractors discover new hazards and comply with new regulations. While these guidelines may vary slightly from project to project, there are a few things contractors can do to keep their job sites generally safe for all stakeholders.
- Providing proper safety training – With the complexity of most construction hazards, site safety is beyond common sense. Workers need adequate training to identify risks independently and respond correctly. This training typically teaches all safety standards, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use, and machine operation safety protocols.
- Monitoring worker health – Besides requiring a medical and health certificate before employment, many of today’s contractors also have in-house medical personnel or a partner healthcare provider who regularly monitors the workers’ health. Their job includes conducting regular health screenings and providing medical services when needed.
- Providing PPE – Construction laws and regulations require contractors to provide their workers with PPE, such as safety glasses, gloves, hard hats, and earplugs. The same applies to subcontractors.
- Implementing safety protocols – Construction companies must create and develop safety protocols based on existing laws and regulations. They must regularly update these protocols and conduct safety inspections to ensure workers are following them faithfully. Safety inspections often include providing teams with safety checklists and collecting reports regularly.
Taking proactive steps to improve construction site safety keeps workers safe and protects contractors against legal and financial obligations. It also boosts clients’ trust in their services.
The role of digital technology in construction site safety
Construction has come a long way, from relying solely on analog systems to incorporating digital solutions. The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology has enabled the industry to transcend its limitations, which have long undermined efforts to curb site safety hazards. Here are some of the ways digital technology is transforming construction safety management.
1. Digital inspection tools
Most construction accidents occur due to the contractor’s limited inspection capabilities. Not only are they unable to exhaustively scrutinize inaccessible and dangerous areas on the job site, but they also can’t collect and analyze large volumes of real-time data. However, tools like drones, the Internet of Things IoT, and digital cameras make this possible. In addition, project management software like PlanRadar further simplifies the process by providing a quick and easy way to transfer, store, and share data.
2. Wearable technology
Monitoring workers’ health and their environment in real-time is critical in quickly responding to incidents and preventing similar recurring problems. However, this is only doable if the workers wear sensors that detect irregularities and stream real-time data. As a result, most contractors now invest in wearable technology, such as smart helmets and vests, which can detect various activities on the job site, including the workers’ heart rate, movement, and proximity to potential hazards.
3. Virtual reality training
Real experience gives workers the best training but comes with risks that are not worth taking. The next best thing is to provide them with simulations of dangerous situations they may encounter on the job site. This allows them to practice responding to potential hazards in a safe and controlled environment, improving their ability to react quickly and safely in real-life situations.
4. Building Information Modeling
Besides simulating actual scenarios, contractors can create a detailed, multi-layered representation of the construction site to identify and fix potential hazards more efficiently. BIM software can do just that. It’s a tool that consolidates all data related to the construction project into a single virtual twin. It provides more information than any traditional blueprints have.
Site safety is a non-negotiable aspect of a construction project, regardless of scope and complexity. Protecting workers’ health and life ensures smooth operation without delays and cost overruns. When workers feel safe, they become more productive, and the quality of their work increases.
Digital integration can improve construction site safety by optimizing inspection, data analytics, and emergency response. Construction companies must use available digital tools to identify better and mitigate potential job site hazards. Construction project management software offers a vast range of tools that can be maximized to boost construction site safety.