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The Difference Between a Safe and Secure Construction Site

02/01/2021 Article

Losses at construction sites occur from security and safety hazards that threaten construction operations. An estimated $400 million is lost annually due to incidents like theft and worker’s compensation in the U.S. These losses create a need for project managers to understand occurrence and prevention of safety and security incidents at construction sites.

Safety and security concerns at construction sites are quite different so to properly address both, you need to understand their respective causes. Construction site safety ensures the absence of impending danger to construction workers and the public. Security, on the other hand, involves identifying and mitigating risks such as theft and vandalism.

Understanding and taking preventive measures that address both types of concerns at construction sites helps create a safe and secure environment not only for the project operations, but also workers and the public.

Let’s discuss the most common safety and security concerns in construction sites by considering common hazards and best practices to combat their prevalence.
Pull quote saying "Understanding and taking preventive measures that address both concerns helps create a safe and secure environment not only for the project operations, but also workers and the public."

Safety Hazards at Construction Sites

Worker Incidents

Falls, electrocution, being struck by moving objects and caught in between objects account for the leading causes of worker incidents at construction sites. While some of the conditions leading to the accidents including scaffolds, guardrails and personal protection equipment (PPE) can be resolved, some causes are triggered by exposure to harsh weather conditions including strong winds and rainfall, which are much harder to avoid.

Equipment malfunctions

Construction sites rely on power equipment, hand tools and heavy machinery to facilitate efficiency. While the tools and equipment are meant to make construction activities easier, they can pose safety hazards. Equipment malfunctions could be the result of faulty manufacturing, but it is also likely to arise from misuse, poor maintenance and storage practices, and lack of proper training on machine handling.

Structural failures

Structural failures include cracks, misalignments, deformations and collapse of a structure during the construction process. Reported structural failures can be due to improper designs, foundation failures or even construction errors where engineers fail to supervise construction activities.

Promoting safety at Construction Sites 

Adhering to Safety Guidelines

Adhering to safety guidelines is the first step to creating a culture that promotes workplace safety. There should be designated human resource officers responsible for monitoring training and recertification from certified organizations in construction like NCCER to ensure the construction site’s safety guidelines are up to date. Following all the provisions of safety guidelines creates assurance of a safe working environment.

Employee Training

Engaging employees frequently on safety issues keeps them aware of potential safety hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers certification in safety training, which construction workers can acquire to help eliminate accidents at the site. Construction sites should have training units for ongoing safety training throughout the project period and should make sure that managers are constantly promoting safety culture.
Pull quote saying: "Engaging employees frequently on safety issues keeps them aware of potential safety hazards."

Safety gear and PPE

Workers at construction sites need to have safety PPE at all times. PPE can include boots, hard hats, safety goggles, gloves and hearing equipment to protect them when working at heights or when interacting with harmful chemicals and materials. Depending on the circumstances, additional PPE may be recommended after a preliminary job hazard analysis to enhance safety.

Deploying technology

Deployment of technology in construction sites is a great way for preventing safety incidents and improving safety culture. Apps and AI can be deployed to schedule and track safety inspections and build reports. Technology should be used as a proactive procedure for identifying and preventing incidents while sharing reminders about protective measures.

Focusing on proactive maintenance

Implementing proactive equipment maintenance programs like preventive maintenance or condition-based maintenance supported by a CMMS solution is the single best way to keep equipment in good condition and reduce the level of safety incidents caused by equipment failures.

Security Hazards and Concerns at Construction Sites 

Threats to property and assets

With the high traffic of workers and vehicles within the construction sites, opportunistic outsiders may gain access to siphon fuel and collect valuables. The available market for construction materials makes construction sites an easy target for theft. Loss of materials in construction projects increases the project costs accompanying equipment theft, including higher insurance premiums, downtime for operators, project delays and the possibility of revoked insurance claims.

Threat to operations

Arson, deliberate damage and vandalism are potential occurrences that threaten operations, including the project schedule regarding completion and budget. Protestors opposed to the commercial or political project may carry out vandalism to halt the project or maliciously damage materials and equipment.

Best Practices for Improving Security at Construction Sites

Site surveillance with cameras

Video surveillance and alarm systems that adopt infrared cameras and motion sensors help keep the construction site safe from potential security threats. Having visible video cameras is a deterrent feature in addition to helping with high apprehension rates. Installing a loud alarm that goes on immediately when motion is detected or a silent alarm integrated into local policing systems to notify authorities in the event of an intrusion can also be preventative.

Proper lighting of sites

Optimal visibility of construction sites requires proper lighting of the vicinity. With a proper lighting system that incorporates motion-sensor lighting, it becomes easier for guards patrolling the site at night to spot opportunistic intruders.
Pull quote saying: "Optimal visibility of construction sites requires proper lighting of the vicinity."

Adoption of virtual guards

Restrictions of access to construction areas, shift changes, fatigue, restrictions of human vision and physiologic factors may reduce the efficiency of physical guards at construction sites. Virtual guards are being adopted to monitor security systems and surveillance cameras from a central guard station. Virtual guard technology adopts a two-way communication system over loudspeakers to notify intruders that they are being watched and recorded.

Storage of valuables in containers

Shipping containers offer a reliable solution to keep valuable items and construction materials safe. Built from strong and durable metal, these containers can withstand harsh conditions and hence, are ideal for storage. Access to materials in these containers should be given to authorized personnel. Employees can have tags placed on their valuables for verification purposes when collecting the materials. Valuable assets can even have asset-tracking beacons that use wireless technology making it easier to locate them.

Embracing Safety and Security at Construction Sites

The construction industry requires proactive measures to maximize safety and security. Regular training and procedural checklists deployed using modern technology help to minimize hazards. Although training is a continuous process, you can ensure your employees acquire the right skills through NCCER training, assessment and certification standards as that will lead to enhanced security and safety of your construction projects.

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