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Working safely

 It is difficult to over stress safety, whether it is working safely, or safe design, when building your house.

The most important measure for working safely on the job site, is to always be aware of your surroundings, and the locations of your co-workers or employees. If you see dangerous situations or practices, correct them or at least point them out. Some situations present an immediate peril, while other are a threat to general health. As an example, smoke or dust can be a threat to future health, while missing saw guards and open stairwells are an immediate peril. Before starting work, look around carefully to identify possible dangers.

The most obvious dangers are less likely to be the cause of accidents, than the more subtle and less noticeable ones. Workers are aware of a roof edge, but may not expect a hole in the floor, such as a stairwell, where a step backwards can hurt.

A proper  saw guard for working safely

a proper guard

Missing or inoperable guards on saws, or other spinning equipment, is extremely dangerous. Get them fixed immediately, or discard the tool. The missing fingers you see on some carpenters are usually the result of a saw without a guard. While it is true that modern medicine can often reattach severed digits, they will probably never work the same, and they will hurt for a long time. I once ran a finger between a belt and pulley. Luckily the belt was quite loose so I still have that finger, but it “sho nuff did pain me some, pard”.

Keep the work area clean. Working safely amongst a mess is impossible. Debris creates tripping hazards , and dust to get in your eyes and lungs. Piercings from nails are are painful, and can result in infection or disease. Discarded knife blades are still sharp enough to be dangerous. Cleaning up after yourself is the simplest safety measure of all, and the most often neglected. Tradesmen are often the worst offenders. Leaving their messes for others to clean up.

A messy desk may only be a sign of poor organization, but a messy construction site shows a disregard for worker safety.

Be careful when handling long material. It is quite easy to whack someone alongside the head when you have a 16 foot 2 x4 over your shoulder.

Whats overhead? Make sure everything up there is secure, and try not to have some one working directly under another. Don’t leave heavy tools such as hammers on ladders, ledges, or on the top of walls. They usually shake loose when your head or toes are directly underneath. Poorly secured and braced walls or trusses are also a hazard.

The higher you are, the more likely you are to get hurt, if you fall. The steeper and more slippery the surface, the more likely you will fall. For working safely, utilize safety harnesses, and/or guardrails when appropriate.

Weather can create dangerous situations.

Visibility can be compromised, surfaces can become slippery, poorly secured walls can blow down, and material might be blown around. A sheet of plywood carried by the wind is extremely dangerous. Your balance may be affected by wind, and you could be blown of a roof. Avoid working, or find a safe area when the weather is threatening.

Power nailers can give painful wounds, and nails can fly a good distance. Wear eye protection at all times. My wife was once working in a hospital, when part of a floor was brought in, with a fellows foot nailed to it. Happily, they sawed out a piece of the floor instead of taking off the fellows leg. In either case, the boss was not a happy man.

working safely with electricity

A shocking situation

Electricity can kill. It is hard to imagine working without electricity or power tools today, but electricity must be handled with respect. It is equally dangerous whether supplied from the grid, or by portable equipment. Be extra wary, when working on wet ground, or when on a roof. Look above you before moving ladders, or lifting equipment, to be certain they will not contact overhead wires. Utilize insulating footwear, and use fiberglass ladders, when working around electricity. Most of us have sawed off our electric cords at some time, and the usual result is no more than sparks and annoyance, but if you were standing in a puddle of water with a poorly insulated tool, the results could be worse. Water and electricity can be a dangerous combination.

Once as a young buck, I dropped a tool after getting a shock from it while standing on wet ground. For some reason, I decided to turn the switch off with my foot. Wet ground, wet boots, the result was a severe jolt running from one foot to the other. Besides the pain, it could have adversely affected my reproductive abilities.

Death is often the result of being run over, or crushed by heavy equipment.

Be extra careful when working near, or operating heavy equipment. Make sure there are no children nearby. Use the safety belts, if they are supplied. I have been left hanging from a safety belt when I slipped into an excavation with a skid steer, but I could have been ejected, and crushed beneath it. When leaving the unit,, always make sure that buckets, blades or whatever are secured,  or firmly on the ground. Children are fascinated by these huge toys, and can inadvertently lower bucket or blade on someone.

Hard hats, safety glasses, steel toed boots, gloves, and sturdy, well fitted clothing are important.

Tool belts are very handy, and used by many workers. They can, however, be hard on your back and often get caught on things. For my self, I prefer a vest with shoulder straps, or suspenders on my tool belt. It also helps keep my pants on. Overalls with a bib and many pockets are also a good choice.

ladder safety

Look out below

Working safely with ladders and scaffolds is essential. Falls can be deadly. Learn the proper way to set a ladder and do not overextend yourself when working off them. It is pretty scary to ride your ladder to the ground, and not as entertaining as the rodeo. Ladder accidents are often used in the movies for comedy, but are not so funny when they happen to you. Secure your ladder when working on a roof. I have spent considerable time trying to get someones attention when my ladder blew down. Pretty unproductive.

Make certain that scaffolding is properly set up, and sturdy enough for the job. You might come through the fall alright, if a scaffold should collapse, but all that crap falling on top of you can be really painful.

Use your tools as they were intended. Trying to cut rebar with a circular saw can result in lots of flying teeth, perhaps your own.

Watch your eyes around lasers or welders. The intense light can be damaging.

Splinters are a common hazard that are not often dangerous, but are always painful. Use a firm grip when handling wood or steel, and avoid sliding your hands, or other unprotected body parts, over the material. Use gloves when you can.

Wear dust masks or respirators, when working with insulation, sawing material that could contain hazardous ingredients, or when using dangerous and volatile chemicals. Try to work in well ventilated areas.

Always be wary of fire ,and possible sources of ignition.

Remember that any injury large or small, means reduced efficiency, wasted time, and money lost, as well as discomfort and risk to life and limb.

Accidents can happen, in spite of the level of care, so it is wise to have paid up workers compensation, or other appropriate insurance. Working safely will keep your claims down, and your costs low.


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