Safety is always paramount when it comes to any construction job. It’s the responsibility of every worker, from crew to upper management, to ensure that every possible measure is taken to avoid accidents, injuries and any work-induced trauma.
Road construction can be hazardous thanks to heavy machinery, traffic management, sun exposure, intense heat, and other occupational dangers. A competent manager will always consider these factors before any of his crew set foot on the asphalt. They will also do their best to explain the dangers inherent to the work and communicate the responsibility each crew member has for their own safety and that of their colleagues. If your crew knows you have their backs, they should perform well and stay loyal even under challenging conditions.
All it takes is one negligent crew member to put the lives of the whole crew at risk. Therefore, every employee must be fully aware of all dangers, safety protocols and emergency procedures.
We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to road construction safety for the benefit of all in the industry. Read on to find out how best to protect your crew.
First and foremost, you must be familiar with common causes of injury and death during road construction to prevent them. If you’re aware of potential occupational hazards, you’re in a far better position to plan. Below are some statistics obtained from Construction Statistics in Great Britain 2021 regarding both fatal and non-fatal injuries in construction.
- Between 2018 and 2021, 61,000 work-related non-fatal injuries were reported per year.
- 26% of those injuries were due to a slip, trip, or fall on the same level.
- 19% occurred while the victim was carrying, handling, or lifting equipment.
- 19% involved the victim falling from a height to a lower level.
- A fast-moving object injured 12% of victims.
- In 2020 and 2021, there were 39 fatal injuries reported per year in the construction sector.
- 50% of these were caused by a fall from a height.
- 13% involved the victim becoming trapped by a collapsing or overturning object.
- A fast-moving object struck 11%.
- 10% were killed by a moving vehicle.
- 4% involved contact with moving heavy machinery.
Both fatal and non-fatal injuries of this kind are avoidable with proper planning, situational awareness, effective road construction safety procedures, and adequately maintained machinery/protective gear.
Additionally, there are other severe environmental hazards to plan for. Working outdoors in hot weather presents numerous dangers to your crew members. Fortunately, you can protect your workers against them with relative ease.
Your workers will likely spend long hours working in direct sunlight, which can cause skin damage and lead to various forms of skin cancer. The most dangerous among these is melanoma, which, if left untreated, can be fatal.
Depending on your climate, your crew may work in exceedingly high temperatures. Putting the body through physical stress in hot weather can be very dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. The first signs of heat exhaustion include faintness, dizziness, low blood pressure, cramps, nausea, and headache. Heatstroke is a more severe form of heat exhaustion wherein the body can no longer regulate its temperature, leading to coma and death without rapid treatment.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) is a governmental body that regularly issues updated health and safety regulations for construction work. Their manual provides explicit instruction on risk management, worker safety, planning, and protocol on construction sites. A free copy of these standards is always available for anyone who needs this information on hand.
Correct planning and preparation are your first line of defence against disaster in any construction job. It would help if you planned jobs according to the fluctuation of external factors that determine working conditions, such as weather, traffic flow, and holidays. Your team should only operate when the road is at its lowest occupancy to prevent accidents involving pedestrian vehicles. A job during peak migration times like holidays will inevitably face complications and dangers from high volumes of traffic.
Another integral part of the preparation involves diverting traffic flow safely and efficiently. Causing a bit of a delay for motorists is usually inevitable. But traffic control can minimise both the danger and frustration caused by roadworks.
It’s advisable to give the public forewarning before undertaking any road construction job so that motorists can plan their journeys around your activity. Accidents occur more frequently when pedestrians become frustrated or are unaware of roadworks in their route. Broadcasting your intentions through local media can go a long way towards mitigating this. Motorists can take alternative routes or plan to leave home earlier, reducing congestion and improving safety for themselves and your crew.
Road construction is never a copy-paste job. Creating a unique safety procedure for every site you work on is essential, as every site has unique hazards. Dangers such as blind spots, heights and heavy traffic zones should be identified and planned for before work commences.
Every workday should begin with a safety meeting wherein all on-site staff are briefed about what hazards they can expect to encounter and how to handle them safely. While some conditions remain stable, others will vary from day to day. Factors such as weather, the flow of traffic, the stage of construction, and the equipment used will not remain consistent throughout the job. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that your crew knows what to expect daily.
Another vital aspect of safety procedures is routine safety checks and maintenance. A trained safety expert should regularly check all equipment, heavy vehicles, work zones, and PPE (personal protective equipment) to ensure that nothing malfunctions. The slightest irregularity in your work zone could spell disaster for your crew and motorists.
Any job-specific training should be undertaken before work commences, with refresher courses available to heavy machinery workers. Your workers should, of course, be trained and qualified for the job beforehand but providing additional training for the job at hand could mean the difference between life and death.
The class of PPE required for your job will differ depending on the type of construction you’re undertaking. PPE requirements should be assessed by a safety expert, especially considering fake PPE is on the rise. Once the information is shared with you, it’s your responsibility to ensure that every member of your crew is fully outfitted with the necessary PPE. It’s also your responsibility to ensure that it’s up to standard. Below is a list of standard PPE for road construction.
Head trauma is a common hazard on any job, and hard hats offer a great deal of protection against injury. It’s vital that each hard hat fits appropriately and doesn’t jiggle or shift during work. If a hard hat gets damaged, it should get decommissioned and replaced. No person should enter a construction zone without one.
Flying debris and dangerous chemicals present a severe risk to the eyes and face. Safety goggles/glasses and the correct face masks should be worn when using power tools or working with harmful agents. Some facemasks are only suitable for specific tasks, so ensure that the mask in use is suitable for the task at hand. For example, some masks protect from dust but not chemical fumes.
Steel-capped boots should be worn at all times to prevent injury to the feet by falling debris or heavy equipment. The shoes should also have high-traction, thick soles to avoid slipping and prevent punctures.
Noise from heavy machinery can cause severe hearing damage. It’s therefore imperative to provide all crew with regulation earplugs.
Your crew will be working with their hands in hazardous conditions. To prevent injury from corrosive chemicals, concrete, or rogue debris, they’ll need heavy-duty construction gloves. Ensure that the right kind of gloves are worn for each job—for example, welding, electrical maintenance, and concrete works.
High-vis jackets and reflective tape must get worn at all times while on-site. This ensures that motorists and other crew members can easily see all workers avoid collisions or other accidents.
When working during the day, all crew should apply high-quality sunscreen to any areas with exposed skin. UV rays can cause numerous health complications, even on cloudy days.
When performing physical labour, it’s recommended that you drink one cup of water (250ml) every 15-20 minutes. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, heat exhaustion and dehydration can occur rapidly. Not only will dehydration affect your performance, but it may also impair your sensory faculties, reaction time, and judgment. All of which are vital for on-site safety. Your safety officer or foreman should monitor how much water each crew member drinks, and there should be ample water available.
Road construction safety is something that should never lapse nor lose importance. With the proper measures in place, the chances of an accident are significantly reduced, and your crew can complete their job without incident.