Better Workplace Safety: OSHA and the Civil Engineer

Civil engineers and workplace safety

Civil engineers are responsible for the construction of numerous structures in the private and public sectors, including bridges, dams, tunnels, airports, water facilities, sewage treatment plants, utility plants, stadiums, and museums. No matter the project, civil engineers must adhere to certain rules and regulations, as failing to do so can result in safety violations.

For example, as with any type of construction site, civil engineers work in potentially dangerous conditions. The scaffolding, ladders, railways, stairs, and other pathways must be tested for stability and safety. The use of construction equipment, such as backhoes, bulldozers, skid loaders, excavators, must be used properly to avoid unforeseen accidents.

Additionally, civil engineers on a construction site must also be trained before using any type of construction vehicles or industrial equipment, such as forklifts, conveyors, trailers, dumpers, tanker and hoists. It is also important that workers on a construction site wear the appropriate safety equipment and clothing, such as gloves, hardhats, goggles, fire protection, noise protection, respirators, and other protective gear.

Civil engineers often help design and construct various infrastructure projects that are built to accommodate large amounts of people. Any possible construction defects found in bridges, dams, sewage systems, and other infrastructure projects can result in building failure and possible safety concerns for the surrounding population.

The OSHA’s Alliance Program

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for protecting the safety and health of employees here in the U.S. To help ensure that workers have a voice with which to speak out, the OSHA works closely with several groups that specialize in employee safety and health, including unions, trade organizations, community and faith-based organizations, different types of businesses, and even schools. By working with the OSHA, these groups are given greater access to information and resources that would otherwise not be available.

The OSHA’s Alliance Program works towards the following goals:
  • Training and Education: Provide educational resources to help develop better programs to effectively train and educate workers.
  • Better communication and outreach to employees: Raise awareness of meetings and conferences focusing on worker health and safety. Make employee materials available in multiple languages. Hold seminars to discuss best practices in support of OSHA goals and initiatives.
  • Keeping workers informed of OSHA rules and initiatives and how they can be properly enforced: Provide up-to-date training on OSHA regulations. Encourage workers to participate in improving workplace safety. Make sure that workers are given the proper OSHA information concerning new opportunities and goals.

The OSHA Alliance Program works with groups committed to preventing illnesses and fatalities in the workplace by educating workers and providing them with information concerning their responsibilities and rights according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The OSHA Alliance Program has partnered with the Construction Institute (CI) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to provide workers in the construction industry with better access to the latest information concerning health and safety procedures, as well as access to resources to help improve safety during the construction process and provide better employee training. These resources include the following:

  • Education and Training: Civil engineers must be aware of how to recognize and prevent possible hazards taking place on construction sites. One of the goals of the OSHA is to develop better ways of conveying these concerns, whether it is through printed newsletters, websites, or other means of communication. It is important to set up meetings and conferences for sharing the latest health and safety information.
  • Better communication and outreach: In order to work effectively with employees and industry leaders of the CI and ASCE, the OSHA must keep communication open for civil engineers to voice any concerns related to worker health and safety. This can be done by offering workshops, seminars, training classes, and providing employees other types of material and programs on worker safety and health. Communication between workers can lead to more innovative ideas for improving workplace safety.

Safety in Design Risk Elevator (SliDeRulE)

Each civil engineering project is susceptible to possible safety risks. With this in mind, the Safety in Design Risk Elevator (SliDeRulE) is a tool used by civil engineers during the design stage to gauge the possible safety risks associated with each design choice.

The SliDeRulE calculates the safety risks that are known to occur with each design choice, such as the duration of risk for construction workers, the possible damage resulting from an accident, and the number of accidents caused by the design in question.

Users of the SliDeRulE enter in the quantity of each design choice (for example, the amount of tiles or concrete used in a building), which is then used to calculate the associated safety risks of using that design.

By using these calculations, civil engineers can receive a numerical risk value that can be used to determine whether or not the design choice should still be implemented into the project. The calculations determine the risks associated with each design feature, the building system, and the entire construction project.

Safety and Civil Engineering

Civil engineering is a field with many safety and health risks, making it imperative that each employee is protected against any possible hazards. By using the above programs and tools, civil engineers can design and build each project under much safer conditions.

Learn More

Civil engineers play a crucial role in engineering the structural solutions of tomorrow and plan, design, construct, and operate the infrastructure essential to our modern lives. As a student in the online Master of Science in Civil Engineering program, you can enhance your quantitative decision-making skills and learn how to justify managerial decisions with data. You will also explore the capabilities of modern management technologies and discover how to successfully leverage these tools to maximize efficiencies in your projects and on your teams.

Recommended Readings

Sources:

https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/asce/asce.html

http://www.designforconstructionsafety.org/

http://www.constructionsliderule.org/overview/

https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/whatis.html

http://www.ilo.org/safework/info/standards-and-instruments/codes/WCMS_107898/lang–en/index.htm

http://www.basiccivilengineering.com/2015/04/type-of-equipment-use-in-construction.html

http://civil.columbia.edu/what-civil-engineering

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