Safety in the civil engineering
Engineering is a part of the science. Both Scientists and Engineers studies science. Scientists study real world and they discovers the theories of science. But Engineer has to apply science and mathematics theories to their projects. Applying science to the real world is tougher process. That process contains lots of risks and uncertainties. Each engineering department has various varieties of hazards. Some of the hazards are same for all. Here let’s give our attention to safety in civil engineering. Civil engineers give lots of efforts to construct highways, bridges, tunnels, dams, stadiums, museums, airports and etc. Genrally projects of civil engineering wants lots of construction works. They require more site works than lab works. That may result hazardous conditions. When you compare to other departments, civil engineers have to work in more dangerous conditions. Let’s focous on how we can manage the hazards in this site.
Introduction to safety engineering and its principles
Risk is the possibility or chance for the failure. Hazard is property or ability which causes harm to human or a process. We always mix these two things. Risk is all about future possibility whereas harmful things are included in the hazards. No enough of safety procedure makes high chances for accidents or disasters. Identifying the hazards before the beginning of project and making proper steps to prevent the risks from occurring is called as safety engineering. Safety engineering creates workplaces safer to reduce accidents. Safety engineering is all about researching on the hazards and decreasing the hazards from happening. By implicating proper risk management process, hazards can be minimized. Safety engineering lets workers to work in safer site.
Confirming construction site is safer enough, supervising the construction works, teaching the workers on safety procedures, reporting the accidents, testing the buildings and equipment and identifying and solving the hazards are the most usual aspects of safety engineering in civil departments. Management, Safety officers and engineers should have knowledge to how to handle the risks. They should know about all the hazards and safety equipment. Management must be updated to the latest rules and regulations for safety equipments. They should know how to handle the toxic materials. They should be capable of giving first-aids. Communication skills are so important. So these skills are essential for a person who ensures the safety.
To decrease or eliminate the hazards, management must use the hazard management principles. There are three principles in safety engineering. They are
- Hazard identification
- Hazard evolution
- Hazard control
Any problem can’t be solved without identifying it properly. Not identifying the hazards is one main reason for many accidents in the site. Management should watch how employees are working, how equipment and machines are handled. Management should know what are substances are used in the work. If something is wrong, then management should inspect the problem. Management should research the plan and design well. If some parts of the plan are wrong, plan must be corrected. If plan and execution are different, management should take proper action. Management also want to see past hazard records. They should confirm whether those hazards are managed properly. If some hazards are not treated, then they also have to be added in the hazard lists. Workers are dealing with the buildings and machines, not management. So workers know hazards that still alive in the construction site are. So management should talk to the workers. Conducting regular meetings with the workers and taking surveys are good steps of getting the opinions of workers. Asking specialists who have wide knowledge regarding safety and hazard management, to identify any kind of hazard in the construction site is a good idea. Reading manual hand book of machines and vehicles are also a way to find the hazards on them. So management will identify hazard by implementing above processes.
After identifying the hazards, management should have to analyze on each hazard. Experts will analyze the hazards. They will explore the factors which lead to the hazard. They will study on the impacts of every risk. Possible injuries, possible deaths and possible damages due to the hazard are predicted. And the costs will be calculated. Future impacts also should be predicted. They will analyse about possibility of hazard. They will analyze whether old hazard management system is enough to manage the hazard. Management should find about the actions that should be taken necessary to reduce or remove the hazard. Management finds how and when they need to take necessary steps.
After identifying and analysing hazards, management try to decrease the hazard. The controlling process must be processed immediately. Management will implement the actions. This process should be monitored carefully. After the hazard control process management must confirm that hazard is fully removed or decreased to the level that is possible.
Let’s see few examples how management should make use of this risk management principle.
- Hazard identification
In meetings, workers say that they are affected by the lung diseases and they complain that air is not good in the working site.
Management collects air samples in different sites. They test the samples. They feel that this hazard can’t be avoidable They research how to reduce the hazard.
Workers are advised to wear goggles and masks. Management makes some procedures to reduce the air pollution level.
Management see previous death records. They feel that working at heights produces more accidents frequently.
So management mark this problem as important. They test the old safety system and finds that safety system is unable to stop accidents.
Management repairs the safety system. They provide different positioning systems to workers to avoid accidents.
Supervisor notice that workers who are dealing with asbestos have no safety.
Management knows that asbestos may produce bad long-term effects in human body. So they find good solutions quickly as this an important issue.
Management advised to store the asbestos in rural place with a danger safety signs. They provide appropriate PPEs to the workers who deal with asbestos.
Supervisor notice that workers are smoking cigarettes in the construction site.
Management know that this is dangerous in construction site. Chemicals and toxic gases may catch the fire easily. So this will make big fire accidents in whole construction.
Management conducts the meeting with workers and explains about the harmfulness of smoking in the site. Management should strictly punish the workers who smoke.
Necessary of risk management
Risk management is a necessary process in every construction project. If a worker dies or gets injury because of lack of safety, Construction Company or owner should take responsibility. According to civil law, they should provide worker compensation. They should give all the money for the medical treatments. They have to pay lot of money as fine to the government or responsible organization like OSHA. Valuable Construction assets such as buildings, vehicles and other construction equipments may break or may go to unusable stage. Schedules may be postponed due to these issues. So construction expenses will increase lot. Complete the buildings with the client’s budget will be harder job. So reducing these expenses is so important. So risk management is essential when we see from an economic view.
Let’s consider this factor in legal view. When construction owners want to take responsibility for a human injury or death due to the bad safety quality, they have to answer to the government or responsible organization regarding the accident. Laws always support labors. So they have to answer to worker compensation laws. They have to answer to Medias and people. Brand name value of their business may decrease. So as a construction owner, it is important to stop these problems. So they should provide great amount of safety.
Everyone should have general liability. Workers are doing their job for employer’s construction. They enter to the construction site even though they know construction works are fulfilled of risks. So employers should respect them. They are working loyally to employers. So it is important for employer to provide many safety procedures. Buying safety equipment are cheaper than spending lots of money on these issues.
Construction hazards may result Fatalities, injuries and property damages. Each year several thousands of workers are dead while working in construction sites. Value of a human is immeasurable. Human loss or injury can affect their family and their community. Human health is being affected lot due to the bad environment in construction site. We always forget to focus on problems that continue long term. Even if a worker escapes from these injuries or deaths, he /she have to face long term problems. Construction site is highly polluted area. Contaminated air has impure, poisonous and polluting substances such as Toxic gases, mists solid particles, and volatile organic substances. So due to the bad environment, employees get bad diseases. Poor air circulation and bad surrounding temperature also affect the health. This will continue generations to generation. Their average life time is reducing. They will not spend lot of money for their health because they only earn some money. So health of an employee’s community reaches poor stage. So bringing safety engineering concept is the only route to reduce these issues.
We have seen that accidents produce lots of issues. Risks cause accidents. So we want to decrease the risks. Risks can’t be reduced to zero. But we should try to minimize the amount of risks. We will talk about risk management process that is agreed globally. We will discuss on the important hazards, Safety equipments. We will see how to get out from the hazards.
· Personal protective equipment – PPE
Very first thing that must be done before entering a construction site is; employees should wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). PPE is the collection of safety equipment which will assist employee to prevent from hazards. PPE consist Helmets, Safety shoes, Safety Jacket, Safety gloves, Safety goggles, Safety belts and etc. When construction work going above you, Safety helmets protects head from falling objects. Helmets have various types of suspension mechanism to absorb the shock. Toes are the most susceptible part against a falling object after head. Safety shoes prevents from falling objects, sharp objects, electrical shock and bad chemicals.
Safety Jacket will include a perceptible color that can be easily differentiable by human eye from any background. It is very useful equipment when working in low light to identify the human occurrence in the construction site. When an employee wants to handle the harmful materials, appropriate Safety gloves should be worn. When doing hazardous works such as welding, chipping and work involving dust, should wear safety goggles to protect their eyes. It prevents dust particles, liquids or chemicals from striking directly to the eyes. Two types of earmuffs are being used. Acoustic earmuffs (ear defenders) are used to get protection for ears from heavy noise. Thermal earmuffs are used to keep the employee’s ear warm in cold conditions. Safety belts reduce the possibility of a vertical free fall.
· Working at heights
Working at heights causes more accidents than other hazards. In civil engineering, Working at the heights is not avoidable. When dealing with fragile roofs, worker must be careful. It causes lots of accidents. During roof works, workers may lose balance because of wind or their mistake. Falling while working at heights may lead to serious injury. It is better to avoid working at heights if possible. Personal fall arrest system, Personnel riding systems, Restraint, Safety nets, work positioning system and Retrieval system are few examples of the safety equipments that will decrease the hazards when working at heights. Fall arrest system can absorb huge amount of force and can save the worker from falling. Work positioning system is used when worker has to use his both hands during working at heights. Retrieval system or rescue system helps workers who work in tanks, manholes, etc in emergency. Quality of these systems should be regularly inspected before the works. Workers should wear Appropriate fall safety system during the works.
· Working on scaffolds and aerial lifts
Working on scaffolds and aerial lifts also has more chances of falling. Hard hats, boots and other suitable PPTs should be worn when working on scaffolds. Workers should not exceed the maximum weight of scaffolds. Using ladders, other equipment to raise the heights is dangerous in scaffolds. When working on aerial lifts, workers must be well trained well. Structural failures and electric shock are the main hazards in aerial lifts. Operator of aerial lift should be well trained. Specialist should inspect the machine every day. Only trained and skilful workers should work on aerial lifts.
Working on ladders causes more accidents in the construction site. Ladders have many varieties to do different kind of works. Not using proper ladders is one of the main reasons for these accidents. Loading more weight than limit is dangerous. Ladders which have poor quality should be labeled and brought out of construction site. Maintain both feet contact and a hand contact with ladder while using provides extra safety. Portable ladders must be fixed stable with the ground to skip sliding. Climbing in a ladder with equipment in hand should be avoided.
Slips are very usual in construction sites. Uneven surfaces, ruts, holes, trenches, obstacles, wet surfaces, slippery surfaces and trailing cables are few of the examples of slips in the construction site. This causes many injuries in both ground level and heights. It is better to walk slowly and carefully when the ground is soft or wet. Employees should know the places where the slippery conditions are located. Temporary caution tape covering must be covered surrounding these places. It is important to wear the safety shoes when working in these places. Providing good lane to walk and providing lighting will reduce the hazard. Areas containing mud should be replaced with stones. Employees should remove the unnecessary items after the work. Providing barriers both sides of stairwells could decrease accidents. Steps should contain constant various rise and depth with clear edges.
· Moving objects
Moving objects like supply vehicles, lifting equipment and excavators can be commonly seen in sites. These objects have higher chance of collide with employees. Drivers of heavy vehicles should be well trained. They should maintain low speed in construction sites and they should use different kinds of notification such as warning lights and sounds. Employees must wear PPEs like high visibility jacket to make others to know that you are standing.
· Heavy noise
Heavy noise is one of the common factors in construction sites. The work of carpenters, steel workers, roofers, electricians and plumbers produces lots of sound. Heavy vehicles and construction machines produces high level sound intensity. Exposing ears to high intensive sound for long time may lead to permanent hearing loss. Employees should wear Acoustic earmuffs (ear defenders) to protect their audibility.
· Health problems
A contaminated atmosphere has impure, poisonous and polluting substances and gases. Bad diseases like Cancer, respiratory illness, asthma, Leukemia may affect human body. Management should provide good working atmosphere to workers. Construction sites generally contain hazardous things such as Lead, mercury, dusts, asbestos, and silica. Appropriate PPE should be worn to escape from these hazards. Harmful materials, chemicals and other hazardous substances should be labeled clearly. Employees must be well trained to use the harmful substances safely.
Asbestos is a natural mineral fiber that is commonly used in the construction site. Asbestos releases harmful particles to air. Handling and berthing theses particles could lead to serious diseases. Asbestos is killing lots of workers each year. Workers should know where the asbestos materials are stored. Workers should not disturb the asbestos sources and they should avoid having meals near to it. When dealing with asbestos, it is necessary for the employees to wear the suitable PPEs.
· Fire accidents
Fire accidents kill many workers each year. Chemicals, gases, electrical failures and other reasons may cause fire accidents. Firefighting machines should be fixed in various parts of construction sites. Those machines should be in good working conditions. Materials that can easily catch the fire should be kept safely. Management should reduce smoking habit in the construction sites.
· Electric shocks
This is a the major reasons for the deaths in the construction site. Necessary inspection should be made before using new electrical equipment. All electrical equipments should be inspected regularly by an expert. Only qualified person must do electrical works. The places which contain high dangerous electrical wires should have danger safety signs. Exposed wires and damaged wires must be repaired quickly. Coating hand tools must be made of nonconductor substances like woods. And management should provide suitable PPE to the electrical workers.
We learnt on the definition of safety engineering, safety engineering principals, the importance of safety engineering, hazards and the ways to control them. We know that it is essential to make some procedures regarding safety to decrease the numbers of human loss and equipment loss. These procedures should be applied to the site. In our country, organization should be formed as responsible organization for safety engineering like OSHA. In other countries they have a special engineering department as safety engineering. But in our country, engineers should have that ability. Employees are working for employer’s construction. Both employers and employees must be loyal to both. As an employer he/she should provide the Maximum safety that is possible to the employees. As an employee he/she should know the safety procedures and should obtain to the rules of safety. By doing this both parts gets the advantage. So implementing correct safety is very important.