While construction sites can vary greatly, nearly all of them are hazardous places to work since so many materials must constantly be lifted or moved to different locations. With workers on platforms, driving trucks and operating cranes, the chances that large and small pieces of debris will fall or hit someone are rather high. For this reason, all construction site supervisors must develop safety plans to protect everyone from being hurt by debris.
Before discussing some of the safety measures that can help protect everyone from dangerous materials, it’s important to review the many different types of debris often present on construction sites.
All types of debris must be properly handled during every stage of construction
Immediately after a construction site has been graded to provide a strong foundation, tree stumps and branches – as well as rocks and other miscellaneous materials — must be cleared away so early building tasks can begin. As time goes by, all the following types of materials may begin to accumulate, requiring both daily and weekly construction site removal plans.
- Heavy materials such as blocks of concrete, bricks and asphalt;
- Landscaping debris that may include (more) tree stumps and branches, shrubs, grass, sand and dirt;
- General building materials like pieces of drywall, lumber, siding and flooring;
- Shingles and underlayment: These can include felt paper, tiles, flashing and roofing gravel;
- Parts of broken equipment and tools;
- Loose nails, pieces of plastic, used tubes of plaster and glue;
- Toxic substances – these are especially common during renovation projects. Whether its asbestos or doors and cabinets covered with lead-based paints, plans must be made to daily store or remove these items from the worksite. This removal should be separate and apart from the non-toxic materials that may simply be gathered and placed in dumpsters or other appropriate containers. Of course, new construction projects may also require the use of toxic glues and other substances that must be used to treat windows and floor surfaces. These leftover materials must also be carefully stored or removed daily by specially trained workers.
As might be expected, both New York and the federal government have created guidelines to help those running construction sites (and other businesses) plan for the proper gathering and removal of all dangerous debris.
General federal recommendations for reducing dangerous waste/debris on construction sites
- During the materials purchasing stage for new construction
- Estimating procedures. Construction site supervisors must work harder to improve their estimating procedures prior to ordering all new materials;
- Advance negotiations with material sellers. It’s always wise to try and negotiate with material sellers — in advance — regarding possible buybacks. When site supervisors and managers discover that they’ve ordered far too many materials for their current projects (or when some project plans have changed or been scaled back), they should try to sell back unused goods. This practice often requires carefully storing all goods prior to their use. If these types of negotiations are successful, the goods can be delivered in returnable containers or on special pallets;
- Purchase the least-toxic materials available. Ask material sellers to provide your company with their least toxic versions of products.
- During the daily building stages
- Design improved ways of storing all building materials. Also, make sure all workers have been properly trained to handle materials, so they’ll be less likely to break apart. And make sure the storage area is fully secure against all major forms of weather damage;
- Try to carefully salvage reusable materials whenever possible. Many windows and doors can be salvaged for future remodeling projects. It’s a good idea to have specific workers search for salvageable materials each day, while properly disposing of waste. It’s also helpful to consider donating reusable materials to other builders by contacting recycling organizations or using www.Earth911.com;
- Separate biodegradable goods from others. This approach involves separating out all wallboard, wood and other biodegradable materials so they can be sent to each builder’s onsite composting facility.
Safety tips for both employers and workers – to help reduce dangerous debris accidents
Employers need to regularly review these tips and abide by them. They should also remind their workers about their responsibilities during periodic training sessions.
- Employers should consider investing in proper netting that can minimize falling debris. It’s also wise to make sure that workers on platforms attach lanyards to smaller tools and use stationary buckets to hold smaller items like nails and other items. All workers must keep in mind that an eight-pound wrench falling 200 feet will hit a person below with a force equal to just over 2,800 pounds per square inch;
- High-tech hard hats and sturdy work boots must be mandatory for all workers. In addition, construction site supervisors should carefully restrict the number of people allowed in the most hazardous work areas;
- Scaffolding over exterior, pedestrian walkways must be carefully built and regularly maintained. Too many innocent pedestrians are hurt badly (or even killed) by waste and debris falling from construction worksites;
- One or more work crews must be assigned to carefully walk the entire construction premises at the end of each day. These workers must have already received training on how to carefully remove both toxic and non-toxic debris from the site. Supervisors should provide proper gloves for these tasks when workers don’t have them;
- There should be appropriate, onsite dumpsters and containers for toxic waste. Regular daily pickups of waste are always preferable. Larger rental companies often offer dumpsters ranging in size from 10 yards to 40 yards in length. Only a limited number of workers should have access to any form of stored toxic waste. According to OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the removal of all debris and waste material must be handled in full compliance with all local fire regulations;
- When fire resistant, covered containers must be used for waste and debris. All oily rags, solvent waste and flammable liquids must be kept in these special containers until they can be properly removed from the construction site;
- Workers should be required to carefully account for all tools used each day before leaving. This requirement can help motivate workers to keep track of tools that might otherwise fall to the ground. They should also be required to return all tools in good condition, free of any paint or other substances.
If you’ve been seriously injured due to falling or excessive debris located on a New York construction site, you should immediately contact our New York City construction debris accident law firm. We’ll carefully investigate the facts of your case and then fight hard to win the maximum compensation available. We’ll help you fully recover for all your lost wages, pain and suffering, medical expenses and other losses.