Safety is critical to the prosperity of the precast concrete industry and the welfare of its employees. It is imperative for plant managers and safety personnel to establish a strong work culture that revolves around a safe environment. Through new materials, techniques, and precautions, the construction industry continues to guard workers from unsafe situations and high-risk tasks.
See how the precast concrete industry handles job site safety and works through challenges—both old and new.
Ensuring Worker Safety
Construction is notorious for being a dangerous field to work in, and job sites contain a slew of hazardous materials and obstacles. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in ten construction workers is injured annually, and on average, there are more than one hundred deaths a week on the job. The leading causes for construction fatalities are falls, struck-by, electrocution, and caught-in. Plant managers and safety personnel must provide special attention to various points of endangerment in order to protect employees from harm and ensure projects are completed not at the expense of the workforce’s well-being.
Lockout/tagout procedures, comprehensive signage, energy control programs, and machine guarding are several methods taken to ensure safety at precast production sites. It is important to have full transparency through exhaustive labels with details such as manufacturers, warnings, and wattage and informational briefs prior to entering confined spaces or unguarded areas.
Precast concrete arrives to the job site ready for assembly, which minimizes risk and the number of workers required on location to effectively eliminate the need for some of these extra safety methods. Once erected, precast concrete’s inherent durability also protects employees and dwellers from destructive hazards such as storms, fires, earthquakes, and blasts. From start to finish, precast concrete solutions enforce greater safety precautions and capabilities than other materials.
Defending Against COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic affected every industry, forcing companies to take business remote overnight. Construction, however, cannot be done virtually and is regarded as an essential industry in many states, which has brought new challenges to the field. The guiding rule for on-site work is enforcing a six-feet-apart rule, but precast concrete construction often requires teams to work in close proximity.
OSHA compiled recommendations for construction site safety, including suggestions to have a COVID-19 response plan and limit workers sharing small spaces such as elevators and trailers. The advantages of using precast concrete innately minimize exposure to COVID-19 at construction sites.
- Precast concrete panels are cast in controlled environments, which reduces the number of workers required at job sites and facilitates social distancing rules.
- Because precast pieces are ready for assembly upon arrival, erection times are cut in half, enabling other trades to complete their work with more space and at an accelerated pace.
- The precast concrete industry has increased internal safety precautions, such as enforcing social distancing and sanitation steps.
J. Seroky, PCI Chairman and President of High Concrete Group, says that the pandemic will likely impact construction decision-making for a long time and project owners, designers, and architects need to get educated on job site safety benefits “before they start making material decisions for their next big projects.” Many miss the opportunity to learn about the benefits of precast concrete, which Seroky says is a “beautiful, durable solution that requires fewer people on-site, shortens delivery timelines, and leads to a lower risk of injury claims and OSHA violations.”
Taking Personal Precautions
Complete job site safety requires every worker to be accountable and vigilant in order to protect themselves and others. Management should assess workspaces, regularly train employees, and inspect equipment; however, individuals must ensure their safety by using proper techniques, assessing equipment prior to use, and keeping work areas clean. From old-school essentials, such as proper footwear, to new safety measures, such as masks and social distancing, employees must take personal precautions as they create and erect precast concrete projects.
More on Site Safety & Precast
Interested in learning more about construction site safety and precast, prestressed concrete? Explore the PCI Mid-Atlantic Solutions Center for helpful resources and get in touch with PCI-MA for precast information, higher education partnerships, and more.