Unsafe Conditions Toolbox Talk

Keep your crews safe and informed with this toolbox talk about preventive measures against unsafe conditions on the jobsite.

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Unsafe Conditions Safety Talk

Construction sites are hazardous environments and present unsafe conditions. The combinations of working outdoors, power tools, moving machinery, working heights or deep excavations, and the sheer tonnage of construction materials being used present any number of opportunities for accidents to happen. To prioritize safety and enhance safe working practices, there are some basic unsafe conditions in the construction site that need to be recognized by everyone.

2 Common Types of Unsafe Conditions on a Construction Site

The broad categories of unsafe conditions or hazards for everyone to be aware of on construction sites are:

  • Slips
  • Trips
  • Falls
  • Pinch Points
  • According to workman compensation claims and OSHA statistics, these hazard categories are responsible for the majority of construction worker injuries and missed work each year.

    Slips, Trips, and Falls

    Slips and trips result in falls and are the number one cause of injuries on construction sites every year. Most of these hazards are the result of unsafe conditions in the construction zone itself.

    Accidental spills, rain, poor placement of open containers that are in the walking path, etc… lead to slippery surfaces that make slips and falls possible. Compound this hazard with the fact that most construction workers commonly carry heavy materials and tools by hand through corridors or walking paths only increases the chance someone loses their balance and injures themselves and others.

    Trips and falls commonly happen where there is an unmarked, unexpected change in elevation on the walking surface. Trip hazards often come from objects on the ground and are always “unseen”. Trip hazards are commonly attributed to:

  • Clutter
  • Spills
  • Poor placement
  • Shadows
  • Glare
  • Unprotected edges
  • Falls happen in all conditions and don’t have to be the result of a slip or trip. Construction workers at high risk for injury from falls commonly work in situations including:

  • Ladders
  • Scaffolds
  • Catwalks
  • Cherry pickers
  • Steep roofs
  • Unprotected ledges
  • Deep excavations
  • Drilling platforms
  • For new construction workers and experienced alike, the temptation to overreach your footing on ladders, scaffolds, etc.., is too strong to resist and lead to falls that result in severe injuries.

    Pinch Points

    Think of pinch points as an unsafe condition where crush injuries are likely. These are injuries where a body part is pinched or crushed between a movable object and a stationary one. Construction sites present controlled chaos of moving machinery with blind spots and heavy loads of materials to stay aware of.

    Most heavy loads present stability issues when lifting and often shift unexpectedly after leaving the ground. Dropped and shifted loads, improper lifting devices, and other situations can crush workers between the load and the ground or other immovable structures.

    Most machines and many tools present unsafe conditions for pinch injuries. Machines like press breaks, forming presses, hydraulic lifts and jacks, pipe benders, lift gates, forklifts, and others all present areas where hands and feet can accidentally be crushed if they are used in an unsafe manner.

    Take Action for Prevention and Safety

    So many accidents and resulting injuries are preventable on the worksite simply by increasing awareness. Recognizing the potential for unsafe conditions is the key to taking action for safer working conditions. Here are some general guidelines for improving the safety of your construction site and preventing injuries.

    Scheduled Safety Breaks

    Make regularly scheduled safety checks a part of the daily schedule. Take a minute to evaluate the conditions, your work area, and the condition of the crew members. Regular and repeated safety breaks help keep safety top of mind with everyone on the construction site and allow everyone time to focus on safety as a priority. Conditions like spills and clutter need to be cleaned up or secured away from traffic areas as soon as possible. Unmarked elevation changes or unsecured edges need to be marked and secured. If unsafe conditions exist and cannot be corrected at the time, do not push ahead. Make plans for continuing or completing the task when conditions are safer.

    Designate Areas for Scrap and Trash

    Most of the time on construction sites where ever something lands is where it stays. This is how scraps and trash become clutter. If it is not being used in the near future, all scrap material and supply materials should be moved to designated areas or containers away from high traffic areas.

    Everything has its place even on the construction site or in the warehouse. Tools, materials, supplies, trash, etc… if it is not being used put it in its place. Containers get kicked, buckets get knocked over, people walk into and trip over things that someone else left in the way every day. Safe handling protocol includes putting things where they belong when not in use.

    Preplan to Work Safely

    Preplanning for safer construction sites includes having the proper resources available for the work to be done safely. These resources include:

  • Ongoing safety trainin
  • Equipment
  • Tools
  • People
  • Safety gear
  • Lighting
  • Barricades and safety cones
  • Rigging
  • Steel toed boots
  • Indicator tape
  • Spill kits
  • Bright paint
  • Accident protocols and first aid kits
  • Stop work and involve other personnel to make corrections to an unsafe condition. Regrettably, many unsafe conditions result when someone tries to make the best of a bad situation or focuses on getting the job done instead of doing the job safely.

    Have Back-up Lighting on Hand

    For areas of the country that practice Daylight Savings Time, your work hours may start or go beyond daylight hours. If this is common in your time zone, supplemental lighting should be required on your construction site for safety and productivity.

    Be aware of shadows and keep dark areas well lit. The more we can see, the more aware we can all be. Working with artificial lighting outside of daylight hours often causes shadows in other areas of the construction site so be sure to assess all work areas for proper lighting.

    Never go into a dim or dark area without having some lighting. Flashlights today are far better than the ones your father used long ago. Even during the light of high noon, crawlspaces and attics can be pitch black so keep a torch handy. Many times people get in a rush and zip into a darkened space just for a second to grab something and end up tripping or slipping on something they were not able to see.

    Recognizing the most common areas and situations where potential unsafe conditions are likely will help you and your personnel correct safety issues before they injure someone. Slips and trips are the most common injury occurrences on construction sites. Thankfully, the best practices presented here can be implemented easily to improve the safety of your construction site.

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