Health and Safety in the Construction Industry.

13 Jul 2020

Ruth Obazee
Ruth Obazee

The construction industry is marked by work injuries and ill-health of workers due to the dangers that come with the job. 

Research has shown that construction workers experience more workplace injuries than their counterparts in other industries, because of the tools and machinery they work with on the job.

These construction activities are not limited to handling, storage and maintenance of chemicals or gases, use of power tools and equipment, working underground and from heights, exposure to electric cables, improper hygiene of on-site workers.

This article guides you on steps you should take to improve safety in the construction industry.

The Importance of Health and Safety in the Construction Industry

Health and safety of workers in the building and construction industry should not be taken lightly. It protects the well being of members of the construction team, clients and members of the public involved with the construction process.

This holds for all industries as workplaces that do not heed to health and safety tips/regulations increase running costs, may lose staff, and risk sanctions from relevant governing bodies.

Physical demands on construction workers are higher than on white-collar workers. The average construction worker should, therefore, place more emphasis on their health. Workers who fall ill or have injuries on the job tend to leave the industry after a while, as the strain on their health makes it impossible for them to resume work.

Emergency and evacuation plans should be put in place by construction firms. It would help to increase trust and improve the relationship between both parties, thereby increasing work output and disposition of all members of the construction team.

Employers are responsible for enforcing health and safety guidelines in the workplace. But, construction workers should also take precautions such as proper hygiene and personal care and safe handling of chemicals and equipment.

Safety of Workers in the Nigerian Construction Industry

The construction industry in Nigeria has experienced a very high rate of fatalities and workplace injuries when compared to other labour-intensive industries. 

Construction workers and employers in Nigeria have not adhered to health and safety standards. It has resulted in construction companies bearing costs incurred from accidents of workers and deductions higher than the expected.

Investing in a safer workplace would, therefore, improve the efficiency and profitability of building construction workers and companies.

Occupational health and safety acts in Nigeria include Labour Acts 1990 and Workman’s Compensation Act, 2004 of the laws of the Federation of Nigeria. Another relevant act is The 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act which is administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labour.

Tips to Improve Health and Safety for Construction Workers

Employers and employees alike have health and safety responsibilities. These include but are not limited to;

Proper Planning and Site Layout: The management team of construction firms should ensure proper planning of construction operations from the conception stage. The site should be kept tidy at all times to reduce the collision of workers with equipment and falls from heights or unstable platforms. Provision of ample space for workers to move around freely should be taken into consideration.

Provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): These equipment are meant to protect construction workers from exposure to hazards such as chemicals, heat, electrical hazards. PPE includes overalls, goggles, helmets, chemical-resistant gloves, masks, ear muffs and steel-toe boots. 

Provision of First Aid Kits: First aid exercises have been proven to be very helpful and are necessary at every construction site. First aid equipment should be provided and at least a member of the team trained to a recognised standard. Large sites should ensure to have a first aid room with proper equipment in place.

Use of Safety Signs: These should be used to convey information such as signs for fire exits, equipment containing hazardous substances. These signs can include fire alarms, fire-fighting equipment and spoken communication when needed. They should be placed at visible points and fastened securely.

Health and Safety Training in Construction Sites: Employers in the construction industry should provide frequent training on recognising hazards, safe work practices, proper handling of equipment, and preventive actions on-site. Employees should also be given health and safety training upon resumption. 

Provision of Welfare Facilities: Employers should enforce safety measures and provide adequate welfare facilities to improve the efficiency of workers. These facilities include rest-rooms, housing, potable drinking water and food preparation facilities.

Right Attitude of Team Members: Members of the construction team should develop the right attitude towards health and safety in the workplace. They should practice safe workplace actions and be informed about safety measures. They should also make proper use of protective clothing provided.

In Conclusion, Workplaces that adhere to safety and health standards face fewer safety problems and experience better attitudes from all team members. Enforcing health and safety rules in the construction industry would improve the efficiency and profitability of both employees and employers alike.  

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