5 Constructions Workplace Safety Rules for Dummies

The following is a guest post by Amanda Wilks, a guest blogger and a Work Boot Critic contributing author. Even though she has always been fascinated with technological progress, she has a high interest in occupational health and safety as well. Amanda thinks that all technical changes should occur in a safe environment. Find out more about Amanda on Twitter."

Working in construction certainly has its upsides - you get in a great workout, you learn valuable skills, and you develop incredible camaraderie on the jobsite. However, it also is one of the most dangerous jobs you can have.

Injury is always an unfortunate possibility, but you can minimize it by following the safety rules below. Some of them may seem like they are literally for dummies, but a reminder once in a while can’t hurt even the most experienced construction worker!

1. Avoid Drugs and Alcohol on the Job

This tip is one that sounds like common sense. However, construction as an industry has the highest percentage of substance abusers of any industry in the United States at 15.6 percent, which is substantially more than any other industry. Workers who are substance abusers are more likely to file workers' compensation claims, as it is more likely that they will be hurt on the job. 

Even if you aren’t a substance abuser and only like to get drunk or high on occasion, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job will slow reaction time. And if you’re trying to get out of the way of a falling object or other hazard, every fraction of a second counts. So, save the whiskey for when you’re off the clock - your coworkers will thank you.

2. Wear Protective and Supportive Gear

It is absolutely crucial that you have boots that are not only suited to the job but that also fit your feet well. And while the worst a pair of ill-fitting shoes will do to most people is give them blisters, the wrong shoes can do real harm to a construction worker.

Good boots will protect you from slips and falls, puncture wounds, trips and falls, and falling objects. 

Shoes that fit you properly also will reduce your risk of overuse injuries. Ill-fitting boots can cause blisters, back issues, and even shoulder issues. Taking the time to select the right footwear for yourself will pay off in the long run - you will suffer fewer injuries and dramatically reduce your risk of accidents. If you can, try on boots before buying. 

So, while you’re thinking about the best construction work boots, don’t forget eye and ear protection, too. Don’t search only for the hard hats and durable jeans when you think of safety gear. Loud noises and potential for eye injuries on most construction sites can spell disaster for the unprepared. 

3. Don't Crowd Work Areas

Work in any field gets boring from time to time. So boring, in fact, that you might even think that watching a coworker dig a hole with a backhoe is an interesting sight to behold. But gathering around a work area is one of the more dangerous things you can do at work.

Safety expert John Medla explains that workers tend to crowd sites out of habit. But this habit can lead to serious injury or death if the machine operator can’t see you. 

In a similar vein, being aware of the turn radius of the machines used on your site will protect you from injury. Medla suggests roping off areas affected by turning machines as well as using a spotter to double-check that nobody is in the way. Still, even if your worksite has these safety rules and precautions in place, it doesn't hurt to stay aware and double-check that you are out of harm's way.

4. Use Good Communication

You might be sick of hearing about the importance of good communication in a variety of facets of your life. But on a jobsite, communicating effectively really is important.

When you communicate the risks of operating a piece of heavy machinery, you want the person operating the machinery to fully understand those risks. In order to condense as much vital communication as possible, construction oversight representative Curt Archibald suggests implementing "Toolbox Talks."

These talks, held at the beginning of each workday, outline the possible hazards of the day's tasks. You probably will be better equipped to listen at the beginning of the day while you’re fresh, as opposed to when you’re sweaty, tired, and ready for lunch. 

These pre-workday talks are effective because they help everyone on the site understand risks and safety protocols. Greater awareness of inherent risk means that workers will be less likely to hurry through tasks, since they understand the dangers if safety protocols aren't followed. 

5. Watch Out for Climbing Hazards

This tip may sound like it’s the most geared toward dummies of all of them. But letting your guard down makes you more likely to get into an accident, and since most of us have known how to climb stairs and ladders since we were kids.

Make sure that you pay special attention if you have to climb a ladder, stairs, or scaffold. Always be sure your ladder is on an even surface and that you have a spotter. And be sure to keep your scaffolding clear of tools and debris. 

You’re likely more than sick of hearing about safety rules that you’ve heard hundreds or thousands of times before. But it’s important to remember that safety is always paramount. A thousandth reminder is worth it if it means it keeps you out of harm’s way.