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3 Construction Safety Tips for Creating Eco-Friendly Buildings

Shutterstock Photo License - By Ivan Kurmyshov
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With a spotlight on climate change and how to tackle it, many new construction projects prioritize renovating old buildings into more eco-friendly structures. Whether it’s installing solar panels, adding renewable energy systems, or replacing damaging materials, there are so many ways to contribute to the green revolution. This article provides practical and safety advice for construction industries tackling such projects.

1. Secure insurance

Before starting your renovation project, you need to take out the necessary construction insurance. As explained by Tradesman Saver: “Construction insurance isn’t actually one single policy, but the shorthand name for a series of covers under one umbrella”, and typically includes things like public liability cover, employer’s liability insurance, and tools cover.

When inadvertent damage or injury occurs on the job, you need to be certain that any legal fees or compensation you have to pay won’t impact your immediate finances. Possessing insurance protects your business assets as you won’t be responsible for paying any of the resulting expenses, which is potentially a lifesaver for small businesses or self-employed traders.

For example, you may have to pay hefty compensation fees if you cause property damage on the job, such as to carpets, walls or windows. There’s also the risk of danger to your staff, which could be a disaster if you’re not covered by a comprehensive insurance policy. Indeed, a personal injury policy also ensures that your business will receive financial help if you or someone else is unable to work because of an injury.

2. Assess asbestos risk before any work begins

Any buildings built or refurbished before 2000 may contain asbestos, which can lead to disease including cancers of the lungs and chest lining if breathed in. This is a serious issue, with exposure to asbestos causing around 39,000 deaths annually in the US alone. There is a long delay between first exposure and the initial onset of disease, though, which varies between 15 to 60 years.

It is now illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of any premises, but ‘millions of tonnes of asbestos still remain in buildings due to its use in the 20th century’. Workers who carry out maintenance on older buildings are at risk, so you need to do a full check before initiating work. This involves investigating areas where asbestos is commonly found in old buildings, including installation on boilers and steam pipes, as well as cement roofing, shingles and siding.. As well as asbestos, you should inspect the building for things like malfunctioning electrical wiring and old piping too, which are also hazardous to workers and can disrupt the construction process.

3. Protect workers with fall protection and safety gear

Edge fall protection is essential to protecting workers, as it prevents them falling from height. It tends to consist of guardrails and handrails that are applied to locations such as rooftops and high platforms. Heavy-duty safety netting is also non-negotiable, especially for projects on older buildings, as this offers further protection to those working from height. One bonus many do not consider is that it catches any supplies that fall too. Before inserting, ensure that the net is at its full strength, and that it isn’t fraying or otherwise damaged.

Meanwhile, suitable clothing protects your workers from skin irritation, common scrapes, and sunburn if the work is outside. Experienced team members can be counted on to know what to wear, but it’s worth making sure everyone is aware. Appropriate clothing is a genuine safety precaution, so creating guidelines for this is worthwhile. There’s the obvious necessities like work boots, gloves and hard-hats, but some may not think to wear fabrics that stand up to a job, like denim, duck and canvas. It’s also essential to wear safety gloves when handling dangerous material, such as metal pipes, wiring, and earplugs around ear-busting machinery.

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