Though stringent employee safety standards apply to construction workers, the need to protect the general public from the potential dangers looming in and around construction sites took longer to recognize and address.
In 2001, The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) released a new standard which specifically addressed public safety – ANSI A10.34, Protection of the Public on or Adjacent to Construction Sites. The Chairman of the standard writing subgroup, Barry A. Cole, stated: “The public needs to be made aware of the potential hazards at or around a construction site, and protected from these hazards to the highest extent possible”. But too many people continue to be injured as a result of passing near construction sites at the wrong moment.
Barriers and fences with highly visible posted signs warning people not to enter areas full of heavy equipment are the most obvious ways to keep people at a safe distance during construction operations, and also to deter people from attempting to enter the construction site after hours when work has stopped for the day. Workers operating cranes, forklifts, excavators and other vehicles, and moving into and out of construction sites, experience a number of factors that restrict visibility of people standing nearby. Heavy traffic patterns are also a contributing factor. In 2012, an Ohio State student on a bicycle was hit by a construction truck pulling out of a lot and lost his leg. (It was later determined that the truck driver never saw him). Other threats include falling objects, construction dust, noise and exposure to dangerous or toxic materials and are more reasons to give construction sites a wide berth.
The takeaway? It’s imperative to give equipment operators – and construction sites in general — a very wide berth. And yet curious or careless people still choose to ignore the warnings. Paying attention to gates, fences and warnings, sprinkled with some good old-fashioned common sense and a dose of caution could result in construction companies being able to help the public help themselves stay safe!
Senior Civil Engineer