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Top 7 Safety Best Practices for NZ Construction Workers

Rewarding as it may be, construction work is one of the most hazard-prone professions out there. According to WorkSafe New Zealand’s “Workplace Fatalities by Focus Area” report, the construction industry is only second to agriculture in the number of recorded fatalities—54 incidents between the years 2011 and 2019 exact. Causes of death due to construction accidents ranged from falling from steep heights, ladders, and scaffolding to being trapped between earthmoving vehicles. Such incidents may be worrying to think about. Still, extra care for your safety and security at work is necessary if you want to retain your career in NZ's booming construction sector.

At Max People, we recognise that safety in the worksite is a two-way street: a good chunk of it is your responsibility, while the rest is balanced out by your employer and your co-workers. It is of utmost importance that safety is maintained in regular construction operations (e.g. building, loading, removing debris, and operating heavy equipment), in non-routine ops (e.g. mobilisation and demobilisation of the site), and the case of dire emergency (fire, thunderstorm, and spillage of toxic materials). 

To this end, we’ve compiled our own list of seven best safety practices that all NZ-based construction workers should observe. Read on to learn more about how you can make your worksite a safer place to work in.

  1. Take your risk training sessions seriously. They may not be at the top of your mind when you’re putting in actual hours on-site, but make sure to pay attention to the reminders you’re issued during your work orientations, the site’s hazard assessment, or individual sessions of safety training. We advise that you keep all copies of pamphlets, worksheets, instructional videos, and the like so that you always have easy access to any information you might need.
  2. Wear PPE. Personal protective equipment (PPE) serves more than the function of being a uniform for construction workers. PPEs like coveralls, hard hats, high-visibility clothing, visors, and safety spectacles shield a worker from the dangers of liquid chemicals, stray particles, falling objects, molten metal, and other hazards in the workplace. Invest in practical PPEs for working with concrete, wood, metal, and other materials. Also, wear to sunscreen and bring a water bottle, cooler, or any other additional accessories that can help you protect yourself against sunburn and dehydration.
  3. Use communication equipment to stay in touch with your colleagues. PPEs are not the only gear you should make use of on-site. Communication equipment such as walkie-talkies or headsets will also go a long way in maintaining occupational safety for everyone on site. You can use the equipment to make the coordination of construction activities much faster. Still, they will also be of great help during emergencies when timely assistance can mean the difference between life and death.
  4. Move and act carefully around scaffolding. Many serious construction accidents involve improper handling of scaffolding, or lack of attention and care when moving around them. Scaffolding collapse accidents could result in fall and crush injuries among the people working on site. To prevent this from happening, make sure to have an engineer regularly check your scaffolding for structural integrity, and see to it that they are outfitted with guardrails or toe boards. Never mount a scaffold without your hard hat, never step on boards that are wet or covered in mud, and never exceed the maximum load that can be accommodated on a particular scaffold.
  5. Be equally cautious on ladders. Like scaffolds, the ladders used in construction sites also see their fair share of accidents. Avoid the risk of falling, losing your grip, or slipping off the rungs by using the ladder at a correct angle, pulling it back approximately one foot for every four feet of height. Moreover, do not attempt to climb up a ladder while holding more than its maximum weight limit.
  6. Be conscientious about the maintenance of vehicles and heavy machinery. Machine handling errors and vehicular malfunctions can be deadly in a construction site, but such accidents can also be prevented. Do your part in the upkeep of earthmoving equipment, cranes, trucks, and other equipment that you all use on the job. Ensure that whatever you are using for your construction tasks is in the best condition possible, and report any suspected malfunction before it creates a bigger problem.
  7. Don’t be shy about reporting any health and safety concerns to the management. Max People also emphasises the value of reporting hazards on your worksite. Don’t think of yourself as additional trouble to the management when you point out potential physical hazards (e.g. falling debris, excessive noise, or elevated heat in a certain area), chemical hazards (e.g. caustic substances and suspected asbestos contamination), biological hazards (e.g. moulds and animal infestations), or other unusual obstacles to your work. Their attention to these matters benefits not only you but the rest of the workforce as well.

While at work in construction, always put safety first! Best of luck in your daily tasks, and always look out for the fellows beside you!