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Construction Safety

Construction safety takes priority in any construction activity simply because of risk implications. Construction companies have large responsibilities as employers. They must require construction field workers to use personal protective equipment (PPE), among other safety measures, to protect workers from serious workplace illnesses or injuries. Here, we will discuss four (4) Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) construction safety standards that pipeline construction companies and field workers benefit from to produce safer construction working environments: Excavation Competent Person, Confined Space, PPE and First Aid/CPR.

First, however, it is important to understand what OSHA is. Briefly, OSHA was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act to protect workers from hazards in the workplace and on the job. OSHA does the administrative work that creates and enforces safety standards, to help ensure safe working conditions are abided by and that worker rights are protected. OSHA requires employers to train construction workers in various areas of construction safety.

For instance, OSHA has Excavation Competent Person safety requirements for pipeline construction. An excavation competent person is defined as "one who is capable of identifying existing and predicable hazards in the surrounding or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them." This competent person is determined by the employer, and not OSHA. Often, this is the Superintendent or Foreman of a construction project. The excavation competent person has to inspect all excavations, over 5' deep, before employees can enter the excavation. They must determine what protective system to employ and then ensure that protective system is employed properly before allowing people into the excavation. Below is a photo of a pipeline contractor building a sewer manhole hole in a deep trench thus requiring shoring to ensure this excavation is safe and will not collapse.

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Confined Space Entry is another OSHA required construction safety standard. A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. For instance, building storm drainage systems when working inside concrete pipelines to patch pipe, is a process that has certain confined space entry requirements that all workers must practice. There are many other pipeline construction activities, like sewer pipeline installations, where there are spaces that are considered "confined" due to configurations that hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them.

Nearly all construction sites mandate Personal Protective Equipment. According to an OSHA ® Fact Sheet, "PPE is designed to protect workers from serious workplace injuries or illnesses ....resulting from workplace hazards" such as protection from head, foot, leg, eye, face, hearing loss, hand and body injuries. Common construction safety practices involve always wearing four basic PPE items whenever on a construction jobsite: 1) hard hat, 2) pants, 3) construction boots and 4) safety vest or "high visibility" colored shirt. Other items such as safety glasses and ear plugs are also becoming commonplace construction safety requirements.

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Another construction safety practice is the requirement for First Aid/ CPR training. According to OSHA, First aid is emergency care provided for injury or sudden illness before emergency medical treatment is available. First aid provided in the workplace should be administered by someone who is trained in the delivery of First Aid. Every construction jobsite must have people trained in basic First Aid and CPR. In some cases, construction companies require their entire field Supervisory crew to be CPR and First Aid Certified.

Construction safety covers thousands of related topics depending on what type of construction is represented. For example, commercial sewer contractors have additional items such as fall protection, forklift safety, power line hazard awareness, driver safety and weekly tailgate safety meetings that are also common construction safety practices intended to protect their workers. However, at the very least, a pipeline construction company should actively require these four common OSHA construction safety standards mentioned above.

Having good safety practices in construction, especially for pipeline construction companies who must be competent to excavate and work in deep trenches and confined spaces, is just common sense. Having a good safety record is just good business for construction. Good safety ratings can drive a construction company's insurance costs down, which means they are able to provide better pricing to their clients as a result. Clearly, this puts them at a competitive advantage over other contractors with riskier construction safety practices.