Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Originally published 11/28/2017

Most employees on construction sites are already familiar with Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). SDSs are prepared by the chemical manufacturer and are designed to provide workers and emergency responders with proper procedures for handling or working with hazardous chemicals. If an SDS does not arrive with a shipment of chemicals or products, contact the salesperson or manufacturer for a copy before using the product.

SDSs should be available for immediate use in case there is an accident involving a chemical, and every employee working with chemicals or hazardous materials should know where the SDS binder is located on the site. Remember, when an SDS provides limited or vague information about a chemical, do NOT assume the chemical is not hazardous.

Safety Data Sheets have 16 sections, which should appear in the following order:

  • Section 1: Identifies the product and the manufacturer.
  • Section 2: Lists hazard classification, signal word, hazard statements, precautionary statements and pictograms that appear on the container label.
  • Section 3: Composition/information on ingredients.
  • Section 4: First-aid measures.
  • Section 5: Fire-fighting measures.
  • Section 6: Identifies how to handle spills, leaks or accidental release of the chemical, as well as containment and cleanup practices.
  • Section 7: Handling and storage.
  • Section 8: Exposure controls/personal protection.
  • Section 9: Physical and chemical properties of the product.
  • Section 10: Stability and reactivity of the product.
  • Section 11: Explains the health effects, if any, of over-exposure to the chemical.
  • Section 12: Ecological information.
  • Section 13: Disposal considerations.
  • Section 14: Transport information.
  • Section 15: Regulatory information.
  • Section 16: Other information.

Supervisors should regularly gather employees and review the SDSs for commonly-used products. Discuss how to:

  • Fight a fire involving the chemical,
  • Administer first aid if chemical exposure occurs,
  • Notify emergency services,
  • Clean up a spill, and
  • Determine proper PPE

If you work with chemicals and hazardous materials and don’t know where the Safety Data Sheets are on your jobsite, ask a supervisor.

Download the recording form here.

Back Injury: Causes and Prevention

Originally published 11/01/2017

Back injuries are among the most common workplace injury, even in construction. Once injured, the back can become a life-long source of recurrent pain and potential re-injury that often surgery and medication cannot fix.

The causes of back injuries include:

  • Reaching while lifting,
  • Poor posture,
  • Staying in one position for too long,
  • Poor physical condition,
  • Repetitive lifting,
  • Twisting or bending while lifting,
  • Heavy lifting,
  • Fatigue,
  • Poor footing and
  • Vibrations, such as in lift trucks or delivery trucks.

Back injury can be prevented if you:

  • Minimize the weight, range of motion and frequency of the activity.
  • Plan ahead. Decide how you are going to pick up a load, carry it and set it down, then check the route for obstructions. Always get assistance if the load is too heavy or too awkward.
  • Get as close to the load as possible before lifting. The further the load is from the center line of your body, the greater the strain imposed on your back.
  • Reduce the size or weight of the object(s) being lifted.
  • If possible, push rather than pull an object.
  • Make sure your material handling equipment has handles that can be easily grasped while in an upright posture.
  • Elevate bins and containers and tilt them if possible, to improve access to the materials inside the containers.
  • Provide lift-assist devices.

Remember, too, that stretching before beginning work helps to warm up muscles and prevent strains and sprains. Strength and fitness training can also benefit workers. Rotating employees, providing short breaks every hour or so or using a two-person lift may be helpful in reducing injury as well.

Reducing repetitive stress and acute back injuries by improving workplace ergonomics and worker training improves health and productivity – a win-win for workers and employers.

Download the recording form here.

Accident Causes and Prevention

Originally published 10/24/2019

Accidents on construction sites generally spur questions like, “What happened?” or “How did it happen?” But accidents don’t just happen. They can almost always be traced back to an unsafe condition, an unsafe act or a combination of both. To eliminate accidents, we must eliminate unsafe conditions and acts.

Unsafe conditions are usually created by:

  • Poor housekeeping;
  • Improper storage;
  • Defective or damaged equipment;
  • Improper maintenance;
  • Removing guards from machinery and, in some rare cases,
  • Unsafe procedures.

Unsafe conditions can be eliminated if crews regularly inspect the worksite and equipment, identify any hazards that exist and correct them.

Although unsafe conditions can lead to accidents, most safety experts agree that the majority of accidents are caused by unsafe acts. These are careless things that people do that are most often the result of poor habits, taking short cuts and even disregarding safety policies and procedures.

Examples of unsafe acts include:

  • Reaching into equipment or machinery while it is running;
  • Backing equipment without looking behind the equipment or using a spotter;
  • Not inspecting tools and equipment before use;
  • Using damaged tools or equipment or
  • Indulging in horseplay on the job.

Remember, because all accidents are caused by an unsafe condition or act, it is possible to prevent them. Do a thorough safety audit on your jobsite. Correct all unsafe conditions and report all unsafe acts.

If an accident does occur, do a safety investigation – not simply to find fault or place blame, but to find out what needs to be corrected so that future accidents can be prevented.

Most companies have safety rules to prevent unsafe acts. Practice them. Eventually, safety will become a habit – a habit that could save a life.

Download the recording form here

Backing Safety

Originally published 10/10/2017

One of the highest causes of injury or even fatality in construction is backing accidents. Every time a machine is put into reverse, the potential for danger exists.

Here are some tips that can help make backing up a safe operation:

  • First and foremost, avoid backing equipment and vehicles when at all possible. Plan ahead and set up your site in a way that prevents the need for backing in most instances. Try to position your vehicle so that you can easily pull forward out of a parking spot.
  • Make sure your back-up alarm is working.
  • You might want to invest in back-up cameras for your equipment or vehicles.
  • Mark fixed objects on your jobsite so they are more visible to those operating the equipment or vehicle.
  • Place protective barricades to protect people and critical or expensive equipment from struck-by incidents.
  • If you must back up, know your blind spots and check them before moving your vehicle. Do a complete walk-around of your vehicle.
  • Require everyone near the area where the backing up will take place to wear high visibility apparel and head protection.
  • Limit pedestrian and vehicle crossings in areas where backing will occur.
  • Utilize spotters to control and direct traffic in high-congestion, high-activity areas. The driver and spotter should agree on a stop signal before the driver begins to move the vehicle.
  • Activate warning lights if your vehicle is equipped with them, and sound your horn before backing up.
  • Use your mirrors.
  • Back up slowly and keep your spotter in view. If you lose sight of your spotter, stop.

Remember, backing accidents are almost always preventable if employees are properly trained and exercises caution. Operators and pedestrians alike must recognize the hazards involved when backing machinery or vehicles, and know what to do to avoid accidents.

Download the recording form here.