Equipment Safety: Best Practices to Reduce Risk

Raymond O’Brocki

November 18, 2019

Construction sites often require various equipment and tools to complete a project. Though necessary, these items can also be hazardous without with proper caution, maintenance, and training. Last month’s blog covered practicing hot work safely, a common hazard on construction sites. This month, we address best practices for safely using other common construction site tools – generators, electrical equipment, and hand tools. 

Generator Safety

On construction sites, portable generators can be used to drive power through the structure for various uses including lighting and equipment operation. These generators pose a risk of shock, electrocution, and even fire when not managed properly. To avoid electrocution hazards, operators should keep the generator protected from moisture in wet environments and ensure that hands and clothing are dry before using a generator. Regular maintenance, inspection, and cleaning of the generator will help avoid fire risk. Ensure that exhaust systems are properly installed and appropriate ventilation is provided. Combustible materials and smoking should not be in the vicinity of the generator and a fire extinguisher should be available nearby. Learn more about generator safety here.

Electrical Safety

To ensure electrical equipment, such as powered tools are used safely, proper installation, use, inspection, and maintenance must be practiced. Any individual who operates electrical equipment should only do so after proper training. Ensure that electrical mechanisms are properly maintained by eliminating overload power, removing and replacing any damaged wiring, checking fuses, and reducing device overheating. Minimize any external hazards by keeping water, fuels and combustible items away from electrical equipment and reduce the use of extension cords. Always wear proper clothing and only work on maintaining electrical equipment when removed from a power source. Learn more about electrical safety here.

Hand Tool Safety

Hand tools are non-powered tools and include anything from hammers to wrenches. The greatest hazards when using hands tools is often caused by misuse, lack of training, or improper maintenance. For example:

  • A wrench must not be used if its jaws are sprung, because it could slip and injure workers.
  • Impact tools such as chisels, wedges, or drift pins are unsafe if they have mushroomed heads as they may shatter on impact.
  • Saws, knives, or other sharp tools must be directed away from aisle areas and other employees working in close proximity.

Always wear proper attire, such as safety goggles and gloves, when using a hand tool. Employers must provide safe and usable tools, but employees must properly use and maintain the tool. Learn more about hand tool safety here.

When using various equipment and tools, maintenance and proper handling is key! To ensure the safety of one’s self and others on-site, employees must be trained to correctly use equipment and may require supervision. In following these safety best practices, the risk of injury, damage, or fire can be greatly reduced on your construction site.

Raymond O’Brocki, is the manager of fire service relations for the American Wood Council. Before that he was the chief building official for the City of Rockville, MD. He retired as the assistant fire chief the Baltimore City Fire Department in 2013. He was appointed fire marshal for Baltimore City in 2008. During his tenure as fire marshal, Baltimore City recorded the three lowest annual fire fatality totals in its history. O’Brocki has served on the Maryland State Child Care Advisory Council, Maryland State Fire Code Update Committee, State Fire Marshals Legislative Working Group in Annapolis and the steering committee for the Mid-Atlantic Life Safety Conference. He has served on the NFPA Urban Fire Safety Task Force and has presented at the National Fire Academy. Ray is currently a sitting member of the NFPA 1 technical committee. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of law and a licensed attorney.