Workplace Safety Guides

   Construction Site Safety


Access to construction projects is sometimes difficult. Ramps are frequently used. Ramps, ladders or stairs must be provided whenever there is a change in elevation of 19 inches or more in frequently-traveled areas. Ramps must be at least 18 inches wide and sloped no more than 20 degrees. The surface should have cleats or other means of preventing a slipping hazard. If a fall hazard of four feet or more exists, a guardrail is required. Stairways to a second or higher floor must be complete before the studs are raised on the next higher floor. Stairways must have either temporary or permanent railing.

Ladder safety is an important part of workplace safety. The improper use of ladders is the number one cause of falls. Often stepladders are used on construction sites. Be sure they are in good condition before using. Make sure that the legs of the stepladder are extended fully and locked in position and that the area at the base of the ladder is kept clear of debris. Do not stand or work from the top two steps. Extension ladders must be secured to prevent displacement. Both hands must be kept free for climbing. The ladder needs to extend three feet above the working surface so the worker has something to grasp for balance when getting on or off the ladder. The areas at the top and bottom of the ladder must be kept clear.

Where workers are exposed to falls of ten feet or greater, the workers must be protected from the fall hazard. Guardrails provide fast and easy fall protection. But while installing guardrails, workers need to be protected from the fall hazard. The top rail must be between 39 and 45 inches high with the mid-rail halfway between the top rail and the working surface. The maximum difference between uprights is 8 feet. Guardrails must be capable of withstanding a 200 lb. force in any direction. Rails should be nailed on the inside of the uprights to prevent them being pushed off. If job site conditions require that the rails be placed on the outside of the uprights, use special care to make sure long enough fasteners are used to hold the rails securely.

Guardrail systems must have toeboards in areas where other workers below may be exposed to falling objects. The toeboard prevents tools or materials from accidentally being knocked off the edge. Always consider the safety of other workers in the area.

Where fall hazards of four feet or more exist as a result of a wall opening, a top-rail and mid-rail are needed unless other forms of fall protection are provided. In some situations, the sill of the window is high enough to be considered a midrail. Then, only a top-rail is needed. Above 10 feet, the installer needs to be protected from the fall while installing the rails.

When framing walls, as well as installing and removing guardrails at elevations of 10 feet or greater, fall restraint or fall arrests must be implemented. Always adjust your equipment to limit your exposure to the edge as work progresses.

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