Construction Site Safety Guide

28 March 2022

Just like any workplace or employment sector, construction industry employees have the right to work in a safe environment. And while every member of the team must play a role in making the construction site a safe and accident-free environment, the bulk of the responsibility lies with the employer. By developing and enforcing a workplace safety code, you can keep your workers safe and productive on-site, and your business will benefit in numerous ways by taking the wellbeing of your employees seriously. This includes developing a reputation as an ‘employer of choice’, one that workers at all levels, from apprentices to management, want to work for. 

Construction site safety and duty of care

According to Safe Work Australia data for 2020, the construction industry had the third highest fatality rate that year with 3.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers, behind agriculture, forestry and fishing (13.1 fatalities per 100,000 workers) and transport, postal and warehousing (7.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers). However, among occupation groups, ‘machinery operators and drivers’ — an occupation group prevalent among construction businesses — had the highest number of fatalities in 2020 with 67 fatalities, which represents 8.4 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This percentage is significantly higher than the following two occupation groups on the list — ‘labourers’ (3.5 per 100,000) and ‘managers’ (2.2 per 100,000). As such, implementing a strict workplace safety code is incredibly important, especially when heavy machinery like dozers and excavators are utilised on-site. 

What’s more, as an employer, you have a duty of care for your employees, which means you have obligations under the Occupation Health and Safety Act and Regulations to provide a safe work environment for your machinery operators and drivers, tradespeople, labourers, managers and everyone else on the worksite. 

Common construction site hazards 

Due to the nature of the work, the machinery employed on-site and other factors, construction sites are inherently dangerous places, with the three main causes of on-site fatalities working at heights, interaction with mobile plant, and coming into contact with electricity. With regard to interaction with mobile plant, one of the greatest challenges involved when operating dozers, excavators and other heavy machinery is maintaining an effective exclusion zone between workers and machinery. Not only must operators be aware that they may not be able to see workers on foot due to blind spots or vision shadows, but workers in the operating zone must be aware that they may not be visible to the operator at all times. These important considerations heighten the need to develop a strict workplace safety code aligned with the specific machinery used on site. 

Avoiding construction site accidents

Avoiding accidents and making the worksite a safer place involves attention at all levels — from management right down to entry-level employees. That means there isn’t a single policy you can implement or action that you can take that will help your organisation achieve its workplace health and safety goals, but many. Here are the most important areas to focus on when making improvements to your operations to improve on-site safety. 

Use equipment safely - Only operators with current and relevant licences should operate heavy machinery like excavators and dozers, and they should be provided with periodic ‘refresher’ courses to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. 
Employee training - As proper training plays a critical role in worksite safety, all employees at all levels, no matter how experienced they are, should undertake safety training periodically. However, new employees require the most attention.
On-site communication - Effective communication helps to make worksites safer places for all, so not only should workers have a clear understanding of their roles, but they should also feel comfortable reporting any health or safety concerns. 
Preventative maintenance and scheduled servicing - As heavy equipment undergoes significant wear and tear, preventative maintenance and scheduled servicing are required to ensure machinery is working correctly and won’t pose an occupational hazard on the site. 
Daily equipment inspections - To identify issues with machinery before they escalate into major problems that pose safety issues, regular equipment inspections are a must. Before each shift, operators should perform a daily walk around inspection
Repairs and genuine Cat parts - Carrying out timely repairs helps to prevent further damage and wear and tear, and all repairs should be carried out using high-quality replacement parts, ideally genuine Cat parts designed for that specific model.

Hastings Deering is the official Cat equipment and machinery dealer for Queensland and Northern Territory, and the right choice for your heavy machinery needs. When you need scheduled Cat servicing solutions or Cat repairs using genuine Cat parts, contact your local Hastings Deering branch

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