Construction sites require a rigorous amount of care and vigilance from workers in terms of health and safety. Many accidents and even some fatalities happen to workers each year which could have been avoided through proper application and awareness of on-site safety procedures.
Pedestrian and public safety is just as vital. Many construction sites are within close proximity to areas where the public operate, requiring rules and safety procedures which are equally as vital as for the construction workers on site.
Some of the hazardous elements for pedestrians on construction sites are construction cranes carrying heavy loads, uneven surfaces, falling objects, collapses, heavy machinery and hazardous substances. Every piece of machinery and equipment used on a construction site has specific instructions regarding set up and maintenance, not only for the safety of the people working on the construction site but also the public. When equipment is used and maintained properly, workers and the public will benefit from greater safety.
Pedestrians should always exercise caution when in the vicinity of construction sites; however the first step towards construction safety of pedestrians should be making the public aware of danger.
All sites should display clear signs which are visible to pedestrians, indicating that construction is in progress along the perimeter of the site and at any entrance to the site. At entrances to sites, a sign should also be displayed indicating that the area after the entrance is a hard hat area, requiring the use of a safety construction hat at all times.
Common sense can save lives and if pedestrians are aware of danger, common sense will generally keep most of the public out of harms way.
Fencing off the perimeter
Fencing off a construction site is vital to public safety, and keeping all work inside the perimeter is equally as important.
If hazards are kept inside a fenced location, pedestrians should remain safe. When cranes are lifting heavy materials to deposit on the site, the cranes should not move the material over any space that is not cordoned off. If a crane needs to move a load out of the site regularly, the areas directly below where the crane will be moving its load should be blocked to the public in case anything falls from the crane.
An object as small as a billiard ball can kill a person instantly when dropped from the immense height of a crane. The same applies for objects falling from the sides of buildings or any type of scaffolding. Whilst the public should be reasonably far from any high scaffolding and danger areas due to those areas being blocked off, construction workers are still required to keep tools on their belts and refrain from leaving any objects close to the edges of buildings or lying on scaffolding walkways.
Public convenience and safety
There are instances when carrying out construction work in very public areas cannot be avoided. Some areas cannot be cordoned off, such as freeways.
In such instances, it is usual practice for the construction company working on the site in question to contact the local council to organise a closure of the busy area at a time when the number of pedestrians and members of the public is less. For example, work carried out on closed train tracks and freeways during the night allows for heavy duty construction to take place without worry of hazard to the public and will not cause problems with traffic congestion and train schedules.
Another element hazardous to members of the public from construction work is uneven and dangerous surfaces and terrain. When work is carried out on the ground, the safety of the public is threatened by the uneven and collapsible terrain. To avoid pedestrians being unable to access the areas needed and causing inconvenience, and to provide safe passage through the dangerous situations on the ground, scaffolding should be erected over the ground for the public to walk on.
Access scaffolding will allow the public to walk across areas which have very uneven surfaces and holes without the risk of injury or death through falling.
Construction safety is crucial in completing a successful project and should always take the safety of the public into account as much as the safety of construction workers by using strict rules and enforcing compliance from construction workers and the public, injuries and fatalities can be avoided to a great extent. Construction work is an incredibly important part of the evolution of the world and its infrastructure, yet is a very dangerous enterprise, making public and pedestrian safety in and around construction sites extremely important at all times.
About the Author:
Cape Formwork Contractors (CFC) are a scaffolding and formwork company in Cape Town who use workers fully trained in construction safety, making use of safety features such as access scaffolding, adhering strictly to the OHS Act & SANS 10085 and are fully invested in keeping the public safe from harm during construction operations.