Construction sites are generally hazardous work environments; to the public, workers on site and even to the environment. This is owed to precarious activities (at heights), the improper use and inconsistent maintenance of tools and equipment, perilous materials/chemicals that could result in injury and ailment to stakeholders. Further, vibrations, dust, effluent and sound emitted from activities on site could disturb the balance of the ecology around or manifest as a nuisance to the immediate communities. Consequently, the legal framework i.e. OSHA act, The Building Code and the provisions of the Environmental Management and Coordination Act prescribe certain precautions that could be applied to mitigate such hazards. Some of these precautions include:
- Proper housekeeping including the Safety of ingress and egress routes.
The occupier should always ensure that the construction site is kept in good order which translates to proper housekeeping thus enhancing the elimination of any hazards that could arise from projecting objects, nails, scraps metals and sharp blades from tools or any material that is likely to cause injury so far as is reasonably practicable. The site should also have well-demarcated perimeter with visible signage as a precaution that identifies the construction site as a high-risk area, in addition, the means of ingress and egress should be clearly demarcated and free of any obstructions.
- Dust and safety nets
Dust nets are usually installed around the structure to prevent excessive emission of dust and or projectiles that could range from falling material (masonry blocks, reinforcement bars) to tools such as hammers, chisels etc. Safety nets, on the other hand, are installed at alternate floors to secure the space between the dust net and the structure.
- Personnel protective equipment
Personnel protective equipment is certain gear designed to safeguard workers, construction supervisors and any other party within the high-risk zone of the site. Such gear is normally comprised of hard hats, reflectors, safety boots, gloves, goggles, gas masks and harnesses amongst others. These are integral health and safety precaution that should always be observed.
- Scaffold safety
Scaffolds are temporary structures, erected to allow entrée to the external envelope of the structures that is usually rendered remote with height. The scaffolds could either be constituted of timber or metallic components that are constructed to form platforms that provide working spaces. Erection of scaffold should always be under the supervision of a skilled worker with relevant prior experience. The materials used should also be scrutinized before erection to establish their freedom from defects that could compromise the integrity of the framework.
- Prevention of falls
Buildings normally allow for openings, meant to provide for the vertical circulation of traffic in the building, reticulation of services in the structures and even for essential aspects of architectural design such as ventilation and natural lighting. These, however, pose risks to construction workers and other stakeholders on site. As a precaution, any open edges, breaks or holes on the floors, whereby a risk of falling more than 2m is vested should be provided with guardrails or safety barriers pursuant to the provisions of the Building Code 2006, Part U, section 9, clause (a- d).
- Demarcation of traffic and emergency routes
Construction sites manifest themselves as environs that buzz with the circulation of all types of equipment, workers, supervisors, visitors, supplier trucks and lorries and as a consequence, therefore, circulation of these parties need to be provided for in a manner that ensures their safety. Foremost, all traffic and emergency routes should be furnished with adequate and visible signage and if practicable, circulation of equipment should be distinct from that of people. Besides, they should be free of any obstructions that may hinder ingress or egress.
It is always prudent to take all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of excavations by providing supports and or buttressing the sides at an angle of repose consistent to the retained material’s. Ingress and emergency egress routes should also be provided in the excavations and demarcated as a contingency, in case of any incident of collapse that may arise.
Safety is not an accident; it is a unique endeavor, structured and instigated under the auspices of the law that informs safety norms that cultivate caution and sanity within a construction site. Fostering safety should thus be consistent with the development of the core product right from the onset. Hence, every stakeholder is liable to conform to the precautions and relevant preventive actions that are clearly outlined in the legal framework, which governs the construction industry. Strict adherence to these precautions should steer the delivery of a project within admissible health and safety standards i.e. with marginal injuries and work-related ailments.