It’s human nature to tread carefully when we’re exposed to something or someone new for the first time. When learning to ride a bicycle, we hesitate and go slowly (despite knowing that going more quickly makes riding easier). We do so to protect ourselves, to give ourselves time to learn a new skill or procedure, and to familiarize ourselves with the possible problems and pitfalls. This is both reasonable and natural.
However, as we gain confidence, we tend to become complacent. After we’ve done something long enough, we tend to start ignoring the things which keep us safe. For example, we ride our bike with no hands, we drive our cars faster than we should, or we touch cookware on the stove without checking if it’s hot. When this type of complacent behaviour occurs on a construction site, this can have poor outcomes, causing lost work hours, severe bodily injury, or even worse.
So before starting work on a home renovation or repair project (regardless of whether it is your first time or your 10,000th time), please make sure that you always perform the following:
1) Identify any safety hazards
Spending 10 minutes identifying hazards at the start of the project can save you from severe damage to yourself or your project. Ask yourself:
- What are the possible hazards that could occur during my project
- How can those hazards be mitigated/avoided
- What personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to keep myself and other workers on the project safe (e.g., safety glasses, dust mask, hearing protection, gloves, steel toed boots)
2) Ensure you know how to use PPE correctly
Using PPE incorrectly can be as dangerous or more dangerous than not using PPE at all, if it provides a false sense of security when performing dangerous tasks. While there are many possible incorrect ways to use PPE, here are a few examples of common problems on worksites:
- not all dust mask are suitable for all tasks. Check their rating (e.g., N95, R95, P100), and see if they are suitable for what you are attempting
- if a piece of safety gear is uncomfortable, it’s less likely to be used. When purchasing safety gear, spend some extra time finding gear that fits properly and comfortably
- keep extra safety gear available, in case it gets damaged by use during the day
- completely unroll extension cables before plugging tools into them. Spooled cables can generate enough heat to melt insulation and cause a short
- Always keep three points of contact when climbing a ladder
3) Check tools for damage
Spend a few minutes and make sure that tools are in good working order before use. Always make sure that you are familiar with a piece of equipment before operating it. Below are a few examples of good practice when on a construction job site:
- ensure cut guards on saws are in working order
- check tool power cords and make sure that the wire insulation is intact
- ensure saw blades and knives are sharp (dull knives/saws can bind when in use and cause more severe injuries). Replace dull blades as needed
- generators and gas motors should be either used outside or be adequately ventilated. Exhaust fumes in enclosed spaces are a serious hazard
- make sure safety features on power or pneumatic tools are working properly.
4) Fatigue and Safety
Always ensure that you take appropriate breaks throughout the day. Being alert on a job site is critically important to your safety. Long hours and fatigue are significant contributors to workplace injuries.
Remember, we all want to go home at the end of the day. We are all responsible for safety on our projects and it requires so little to achieve. At HGB Construction, we always strive to have everyone home safe at days’ end. It’s a common goal that I believe we should all share.