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Six Construction Site Dangers and Safety Precautions

Bookmark and Share The construction industry employs millions of people on job sites across the United States. While the fatal injury rate is high for this industry, you can understand construction site dangers and steps that protect yourself, co-workers and pedestrians.

Fall Protection

Most of the construction site fatalities occur from falls. Unstable work surfaces and failure to use protective equipment contribute to this construction site danger.

The right equipment can prevent falls.

  • Use guardrails, safety nets, restraint systems and fall arrest systems.
  • Stand on an elevated platform or aerial lift.
  • Secure all scaffolding.
  • Inspect lifts regularly.
  • Clean debris, liquid and dirt off all ladders, lifts or scaffolding.
  • Observe maximum weight limits on ladders, lifts or scaffolding.

The majority of crane accidents happen when the boom or load line connects with an overhead power line. Other dangers include getting struck by the crane or caught in its swing radius.

The crane should always be inspected before use. Only a qualified, experienced operator should run it, taking care to lift the recommended weight and watch for overhead wires. Never stand under the load, either.


Random chemicals around the construction site can cause burns, fires, explosions and respiratory problems.

Secure all chemicals safely. Maintain a Material Safety Data Sheet on all chemicals, and ensure all employees know where the MSDS are stored and how to read them. Train employees on the risks and proper use of those chemicals, too. They should also use protective gear and know how to access and use the spill kit.

Bodily Protection

Injuries to your head and unprotected eyes, face, hands and feet can cause disability or death.

Wear protective gear at all times, including safety glasses, gloves and steel toed, non-slip shoes. Remember to wear a hard hat and watch out for falling or fixed objects. You should also use caution when operating power tools.

Repetitive Motion

Operating the same tools over time or standing in one position all day can cause repetitive motion injuries and strains.

Take frequent breaks to protect yourself. Use proper posture or change positions frequently, too. You can also use less force as you do your job.

Electrical Safety

Any time you work around electrical tools or electricity, you're in danger of electrocution.

Never bypass any device that protects you from electrical energy or climb near exposed wires. Always shut off the power before working on electrical circuits, too. Properly ground power tools, and inspect the cord for damage. If you use an extension cord, it should be certified for hard service.

Construction is a dangerous but important profession. Take these safety precautions as you prevent six construction site dangers.

Safety When Handling Construction Materials

Bookmark and Share In October 2010, a construction worker in Pennsylvania was crushed to death by a section of a steel plate. The month before, a worker in Houston died when a pallet carrying a one-ton load struck him. In Maryland, two bar joists fell off a stack of joists on a flatbed truck, killing a worker.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that material handling accidents account for hundreds of thousands of injuries each year on construction sites. Safe material handling practices can prevent much needless suffering and also save contractors and their insurance companies millions of dollars in medical and disability benefit costs. These practices involve three distinct areas: Safe handling, safe storage and disposal.

Safe handling of construction materials involves several measures, including:

Properly securing all materials that are stored in tiers. Pipes, steel beams, poles and other heavy materials can slide or tilt if they are not stacked and blocked adequately, allowing them to potentially fall on workers.

Keeping combustible and flammable materials in fire-resistant containers.

Determining and prominently posting the maximum safe load limits of floors where materials are stored, and taking care not to exceed those limits.

Maintaining clear and sound aisles and passageways for moving materials.

Constructing ramps or graded walkways between work areas on different levels to make accidents and spills less likely.

Improperly stored material can shift or topple over, causing potentially serious injuries.

Sound storage practices required by OSHA include:

Stacking bricks in piles no more than seven feet high, with every layer above four feet tapered back two inches for every foot. While masonry blocks can be stacked in taller piles, but contractors should also taper the piles above the six foot mark.

Limiting stacks of lumber to 20 feet high (16 feet if workers will handle lumber without machines) in stable piles on level sills that provide good support. Prior to stacking, remove all used nails.

Keeping materials more than six feet from hoistways.

Not storing materials in floor openings.

Storing materials more than 10 feet from an exterior wall that is shorter than the top of the pile.

Not storing materials on scaffolds or runways unless the contractor is about to use them.

In the hurry to get the job done, workers often dispose of construction debris in unsafe ways, such as tossing pieces of lumber off the side of the building. This risks injury to anyone standing below.

Contractors should follow these guidelines for proper waste disposal:

Remove all scrap, especially combustible materials, as it accumulates instead of letting it pile up. However, do not remove it until workers are certain that the people working over their heads are finished tossing it to the ground.

Use an enclosed chute to drop debris from the higher points of the building.

Barricade areas where workers will drop debris without using a chute.

Use separate containers for materials covered with oil or flammable liquids.

An insurance company's loss control department may have resources available to assist contractors with improving material handling. Those who want this help should check with their agents to arrange a meeting. Sound material handling practices help prevent injuries, fines and penalties, and reduce workers' compensation costs. They will also enhance the employer's reputation with potential employees. Putting these safeguards into place makes both moral and practical sense.

What You Need To Know About Construction Bonds

Bookmark and Share In the construction industry, construction bonds are an important part of the bidding process. As a contractor, here's what you need to know about construction bonds.

What are Construction Bonds?

Construction bonds are a product that guarantees the contractor will complete the job according to the project contract. Typically, they're required by governments for public jobs and by general contractors and private entities that bid projects to subcontractors.

Your construction bond, also called a bond line, is a pre-approved dollar amount. You'll have a bond limit per job and an aggregate limit for all the contracts you have at one time. When you bid on a job, it counts against your bond line even if you don't win the contract.

Types of Construction Bonds

You'll need a variety of construction bonds depending on the project.  

  1. Bid Bond - Guarantees the accuracy of your bid and that you can secure a performance and payment bond from the bonding company if you win the contract

  2. Performance Bond - Guarantees you'll perform the work as outlined in the job contract

  3. Payment Bond - Guarantees that the suppliers, subcontractors and laborers you hire will be reimbursed if you go bankrupt before you pay them

  4. Maintenance Bond- Guarantees your work for a certain time after the job is completed

  5. Supply Bond - Guarantees your suppliers will deliver the promised supplies, materials and equipment outlined in their purchase orders

  6. Subdivision Bond - Guarantees you will follow local specifications as you build or renovate public structures in subdivisions

  7. Site Improvement Bond - Guarantees you will complete certain improvements such as renovations to older structures or updates to existing properties

  8. Contractor License Bond - Guarantees you will follow contractor regulations and licensing laws (this is technically a license and permit bond but is often considered a construction bond because it's so common)
How to Increase Your Construction Bonds Limit

When you have a high construction bonds limit, you can bid on bigger and more jobs. Use these tips to increase your limit.

  1. Bid on small jobs. - Bid on and successfully complete small projects to build your reputation and improve your chances of getting higher construction bonds in the future.

  2. Complete your contracts. - Every time you complete a contract successfully, you establish a track record that can influence a bonding company to increase your bond limit.

  3. Improve your financial standing. - Hire a construction CPA to prepare financial records that show sufficient working capital, equity, cash flow and profit for your business.
Construction bonds ensure you complete the job properly. They're an important part of your construction business, so understand what they are as you build your career.

How Accidents and Lawsuits Can Be Costly

Bookmark and Share Risk management experts, safety experts, accountants, actuaries, and other professionals make the distinction between direct and indirect costs of accidents, lawsuits, and so forth.

For example, the cost of turnover in the HR That Works Turnover Cost Calculator includes the direct costs (such as paying for a Help Wanted ad) and indirect costs (such not growing the business due to lack of manpower). Two of the most commonly insured employee risks are those for work-related injuries and employment practice claims. This means that the direct costs associated with a Work Comp injury are those related to medical expenses and expense reimbursement, which the Workers Compensation carrier usually pays.

We usually recommend that our clients pay the compensatory portion of the claim because if they don't, the insurance company will pay it and then get their money back by increasing your experience modifier over the next three years. In a sense, they don't pay these claims, they finance them. In addition to the increase in the experience modifier (MOD) and cost of future insurance, there are also indirect costs:
  • Damage to property (building, tools, machinery, etc.)
  • Emergency supplies, cost
  • Possible media exposure/brand change
  • Investigation time, claim management time
  • Affect on employee morale
  • Overtime, costs of replacing employee
  • Increased experience modifier
  • Damage to client relations if accident is “on site”
  • Injury to third parties
  • Additional legal fees
Of course, these ratios depend on the type of claim or injury, type of business, days lost from work, and so forth. When it comes to an employment practices claim, direct costs are for attorney fees, litigation costs and any settlement or verdict payout. The indirect costs include: Loss of employee morale, damaged customer and client relations, copycat claims, loss of knowledge base, training, and experience.

The risk management literature offers a wide range expert opinion on the range of direct to indirect costs. Only one out of seemingly dozens of surveys identifies indirect costs as lower than a 1:1 ratio to the direct costs. Some go as high as 20 times the direct costs (for example, when an expensive piece of machinery is destroyed in the process).

Based on my personal experience and that of experts I agree with, we can safely assume at least a 1:1 ratio in most circumstances. For example, you might have to pay out $50,000 to settle the lawsuit, plus another $50,000 to replace the employee! Unfortunately, these indirect costs are often uninsurable, and in many cases dwarf the insurable costs in a given risk scenario. Interestingly, the indirect cost ratio has been diminishing as medical and legal expenses continue to soar.

These ratios also depend on such factors as:
  • Type of claim/injury
  • Type of business
  • Claim value
  • Days lost from work
  • Legal jurisdiction
  • Management response