Chapter 8



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Safety Clothing, Equipment and Tools

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Safety Processes and Procedures

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General Site Considerations

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The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS) – Act 85 of 1993, as amended by the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Act, No. 181 of 1993, outlines all aspects of safety for every industry.

The basis of the OHS is to ensure that employers take every precaution to protect their employees from harm. It also outlines that employees must behave in a responsible manner so that they can protect themselves from harm, as well as ensure that they do not put anyone else in a dangerous situation.

The Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases (COID) Act, No. 130 of 1993, as amended by the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Amendment Act, No 61 of 1997 was created to provide for compensation for disablement caused by occupational injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases; and to provide for matters connected therewith. Every employer must pay toward the COID fund so that should an injury or disease occur at work or because of work, the employee can receive medical care and financial assistance where relevant.

Compensation claims for occupational injuries and diseases are calculated according to the seriousness of the injury or disease. Injuries or diseases caused by the negligence of a worker’s employer or another worker may result in increased compensation. Workers or their dependants must submit claims for compensation to the Compensation Commissioner, their employer or the relevant mutual association within 12 months of the injury or diagnosis of a disease, or the date of death. Employers must submit the required forms to the Compensation Commissioner within 7 days after an injury and within 14 days of being notified of the diagnoses of a disease. An acknowledgement card or postcard will be sent to the employer informing them of the Commissioner’s decision.



An unfortunate incident that happens unintentionally or by mistake. The consequences of which are usually injury or damage.

First aid

Emergency help given to those who are sick or injured until professional medical treatment is available.

Construction work

Any work in connection with the erection, maintenance, alteration, renovation, repair, demolition or dismantling of or addition to a building or any similar structure; the installation, erection, dismantling or maintenance of a fixed plant where such work includes the risk of a person falling; the construction, maintenance, demolition or dismantling of any bridge, dam, canal, road, railway, runway, sewer or water reticulation system or any similar civil engineering structure; or the moving of earth, clearing of land, the making of an excavation, piling, or any similar type of work.

Fall prevention equipment

Equipment used to prevent persons from falling from an elevated position, including personal equipment, body harness, body belts, lanyards, lifelines or physical equipment, guardrails, screens, barricades, anchorages or similar equipment.

Fall arrest equipment

Equipment used to stop a person who is falling from an elevated position, including personal equipment, body harness, lanyards, deceleration devices, lifelines or similar equipment, but excludes body belts.


A source of or exposure to danger

Hazard identification

The identification and documenting of existing or expected hazards to the health and safety of persons normally associated with the type of construction work being done.

Risk assessment

A program to determine any risk associated with any hazard at a construction site, in order to identify the steps needed to be taken to remove, reduce or control such hazard.

Health and safety file

A file or other record in permanent form, containing the information regarding day to day health and safety in terms of staff and the site in general.

Health and safety plan

A documented plan which addresses hazards identified and includes safe work procedures to reduce or control the hazards identified.

Health and safety specification

A documented specification of all health and safety requirements relevant to work on a construction site, in order to ensure the health and safety of persons.

Medical certificate of fitness

A certificate valid for one year issued by an occupational health practitioner, who is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Safety clothing, equipment and tools

Hard hat

For protection against falling objects


For protection against dust and vapours

Rubber boots

For wet work

Safety Shoes

Reinforced with metal for protection of feet


To protect hands against cuts and chemicals


To protect eyes from dust, vapour, particles, etc.


This protects against falling when working on scaffolding, roofs or other precarious locations

Ear plugs or muffs

As stipulated in the OHS Act, hearing protection is compulsory in a work environment where noise is measured in excess of 85 decibels (dB).

Medical kit

A medical kit should contain at least the following: Bandages & plasters, disinfectant, cotton wool, rubber surgeon’s gloves, painkillers, small pair of scissors for cutting bandages and antiseptic cream. All items should be sealed and kept as clean as possible.

Safety processes and procedures


A site with good housekeeping standards runs more smoothly and instils discipline in the building team, which will also influence the building team to work in a more organized and precise manner – thus ensuring better safety. It is also vital to keep a site in good running order, by ensuring that every tool and piece of equipment is in good working condition.

First Aid

Please remember that first aid is only for an emergency and the person giving first aid should be aware of his/her limitations. Immediately phone emergency services. If one is unsure what to do, it is best to wait for professional medical treatment. However, there are a few steps that one can take while waiting for a professional:

  • Eliminate the cause of the injury (for example, if someone has suffered an electrical shock, switch off the power supply immediately before touching the injured person and then pull them away from the source).
  • If a person is bleeding, ensure that you are well protected (use the gloves from the first aid kit) and stop the bleeding by keeping pressure on the wound and apply a bandage.
  • Make sure the person is breathing properly – if not, loosen their clothing and administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation – this is the act of breathing into someone’s mouth to fill their lungs, at the same time applying regular pressure to the chest over the heart to ensure the heart continues to beat. This must be repeated until such time as the person is breathing freely without help).
  • If a person is unconscious, it is best to try to gently wake them because if they have a concussion or other head injury, they should be kept awake to limit damage.
  • Do not move a person if you suspect they have broken a bone, specifically if there is evidence of a back injury. Make them as comfortable as possible and wait for medical assistance.
  • Poison – if you suspect a person of having been in contact with or swallowed/inhaled poison, keep the person calm, establish what type of poison has been ingested and immediately contact the Poison Info Centre (0800 333 444).
  • Heart attack – Signs of a heart attack include – Tight squeezing pain in the chest, moving from the chest towards the left or right arm and the neck coupled with sweating, anxiety, vomiting, and weakness. If this happens, place the person in a sitting position (with legs down) and keep checking his/her pulse. If the pulse stops or the person passes out, start CPR immediately.


Anyone, from any culture or socio-economic background can become infected with HIV. It is very important to treat someone with HIV/AIDS with dignity and not to discriminate them. Quite obviously, nobody wants to get infected and those who are infected often don’t even know that they have HIV/AIDS. By being careful and practicing safe sex (even if you are in a long-term relationship), you can protect yourself against infection. It is important to be aware of one’s HIV status so that if you are positive you can get onto a medication and lifestyle programme, go for counselling and ensure you don’t infect others. At present, the law states that you don’t have to tell anyone what your status is and nobody can demand to know your status. In terms of HIV/AIDS in the workplace, one must remember that HIV is spread only through bodily fluids (saliva, semen, breast milk, blood, vaginal fluids) so touching another person or working closely with an infected person is no risk at all. In terms of treating a wound, it is important to wear protective gloves and ensure that wounds are cleaned well with fresh water and disinfectant, and then covered with a bandage. This is good practice for any wound. If you have a cut or wound, it is important to keep it covered as well, while treating an injured person.

Safety signs

All safety signs must be located in highly visible places – some common safety signs used on building sites are illustrated below:


In order for a fire to start and to continue, there must be a combination of heat, oxygen and fuel (fuel does not refer to petrol or oil only, but any material that is able to catch fire and burn easily – combustible).

Types of fire
There are basically four classes of fire, which are classified the same throughout the world:

Class A: Ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, cloth and some plastics.
Class B: Flammable and combustible liquids such as petrol, grease and oil, paint, tar, alcohol.
Class C: Live electrical components
Class D: Combustible metals or metal alloys such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, zirconium, lithium and sodium.

Types of extinguishers

  1. Dry chemical powder: This is a common type of extinguisher and is suitable for Class A, B and C fires.
  2. Foam and Water: Foam forms a smothering seal over the surface of the combustible material and prevents reignition. Suitable for Class A and B fires.
  3. CO2: Not for use outdoors and only for small fires that have not been burning for a long time. CO2 works by removing oxygen and cooling the fire.
  4. For Class D fires, normal fire extinguishers will not work effectively and may cause a chemical reaction. A special dry powder and special application
  5. methods must be used to tackle this type of fire.

Fire extinguishers must be properly marked and placed in an easy to access location. Fire equipment must be serviced regularly.

Fire prevention and management

In any situation, one should be aware of where fire escapes are situated (and if there are none, where the closest exit is), where fire safety equipment is kept and what the procedures are in the event of a fire. It is important to stay calm and low to the ground (smoke rises and therefore the freshest air will be closest to the floor).

The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that the following procedures should take place regarding fire:

  • All appropriate measures are taken to avoid the risk of fire.
  • Sufficient and suitable storage is provided for flammable liquids, solids and gases.
  • Smoking is prohibited and notices in this regard are prominently displayed in all places containing readily combustible or flammable materials.
  • In confined spaces and other places in which flammable gases, vapours or dust can cause danger
  • Only suitably protected electrical installations and equipment, including portable lights, are used
  • There are no flames or similar means of ignition
  • There are conspicuous notices prohibiting smoking
  • Oily rags, waste and other substances liable to ignite are without delay removed to a safe place
  • Adequate ventilation is provided
  • Combustible materials do not accumulate on the construction site
  • Welding, flame cutting and other hot work are done only after the appropriate precautions as required have been taken to reduce the risk of fire
  • Suitable and sufficient fire-extinguishing equipment is placed at strategic locations or as may be recommended by the Fire Chief or local authority concerned, and that such equipment is maintained in a good working order
  • Fire equipment is inspected by a competent person, who has been appointed in writing, in the manner indicated by the manufacturer thereof
  • A sufficient number of workers are trained in the use of fire-extinguishing equipment
  • Where appropriate, suitable visual signs are provided to clearly indicate the escape routes in the case of a fire
  • The means of escape is kept clear at all times
  • There is an effective evacuation plan providing for all
  • Persons to be evacuated speedily without panic
  • Persons to be accounted for
  • Plant and processes to be shut down
  • A siren is installed and sounded in the event of a fire.


Electricity typically travels in a carefully directed closed system. Electrical shock can occur when the body becomes part of this system, or creates a new system path. The actual damage from shock is from current flow (amperes). As little as 50 milliamperes (or 1/20th of an ampere) can cause electrocution.

The danger is multiplied by the amount of time (duration) that the shock is applied through the body. A lower voltage of say, a 120 volt household current can cause severe shock or death in as little as 3 or 4 seconds duration. Higher voltages at less duration can cause the same amount of current flow and damage.

Shock normally occurs in one of three methods:

  • Touching both wires of an electrical circuit.
  • Touching one (hot) wire of an electrical circuit and the ground.
  • Touching a metallic part that has become energized and the ground.

The last method can be the least-expected type of shock related injury. If the insulation of the electrical parts or wiring inside a tool becomes deteriorated or damaged, electricity can be allowed to flow along the metal parts and body of the tool.

Power Tool Safety

Power tool safety

Power tools have become a part of everyday life and it is often easy to forget that they can cause injury if they are not maintained or used properly. Because of the hazards associated with electrical power tools – they use electricity and have fast moving parts; care must be taken to examine the visible condition of the tool and extension cords before and after use, especially the cord ends for any damage or defects. Tools should be checked thoroughly and tested when returned to the store or shop before reissuing back out to the workplace.

Power tool safety tips
  • Maintain power tools in good condition and clean. A greasy or blunt tool can slip and cause an injury.
  • Operate the tools according to manufacturer’s instructions. Make absolutely sure you know how to operate a tool before working with it.
  • Use adequate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, boots, goggles, masks.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing or jewellery when you’re using power tools. It’s just too easy for them to get caught in the equipment or to pull you into it.
  • Double check the emergency shut-off. Most power tools will stop either when you release your finger from the switch or when you press a certain button or switch.
  • Make sure that power tools are switched to the ‘off’ position before you plug them in.
  • Store sharp tools safely and use blade guards. Don’t let cords dangle – they are tripping hazards.
  • Store bigger, heavier tools securely so they won’t fall on anyone.
  • Use common sense, such as always cut away from your body; use a scrap of wood to test the sharpness of a blade, not your fingers.

General Site Considerations

Safety Management

The starting point of safety management on a building site is by setting safety standards. These standards must be reflected in a safety policy and should include standards for at least the following critical elements to establish a safe working environment.

  • Physical site condition standards (housekeeping)
  • Statutory compliance standards
  • Standards for dealing with hazards
  • Maintenance standards
  • Training standards for task and safety training
  • Standards for safe work procedures
  • Standards for design
  • Competency standards for managers, site agents and foreman

It is also important to remember that safety management costs money and the contractor would need to budget for these costs. Ultimately the safety measures implemented on a site will depend on the following factors:

  • The budget
  • The size of the project
  • The preventative measure required
  • The contractor

What has been covered on the subject of safety in this section and in other sections is limited and is offered to provide the reader a better understanding of the safety requirements needed in the context of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and in terms of the requirements of the National Building Regulations. The subject of safety in the work environment is a complex one that requires specialist knowledge which is outside the scope of this publication.

General Site Safety Tips
  • Loose materials required for use on site should not be placed on the site where they can block the entrance to and/or exit from the site.
  • Don’t throw waste or debris down from a high place; if waste must be removed from a high level, an appropriate chute must be used.
  • If the construction site is in a built-up area or easily accessible to the public, it must be sufficiently fence off and access controlled, preventing the entry of any unauthorized people.
  • Where there is a possibility of falling objects, the area below and directly next to it must be protected with a net and/or fence.
  • When a building is higher than two stories, the scaffolding must be erected by a qualified person. In the case of smaller work, the scaffolding is erected by the workmen themselves. To ensure absolute safety, a scaffold must be erected to be much stronger than what is required. Usually, the scaffold is built four times stronger and this is known as the “four-safety factor”. In taller buildings, the safety factor can even be as high as eight.
  • It is necessary to ensure that scaffoldings are standing firmly on foot pads and/or solid compacted ground and are well anchored.
  • Warning signs that warn against overhead work and/or overhead cranes and that the wearing of hard hats or safety shoes is compulsory.
  • Warning signs at live electrical points.
  • A sign that indicates that visitors must report to the office and that no unauthorized persons are allowed onto the building site.
  • Steps and floors where walls are still under construction must be provided with railings and safety nets.
  • All dangerous nails and sharp objects should be removed and/or loose pieces of timber with nails still attached thrown away.
  • Every ladder must be properly made of good material and be strong enough and suitable for the purpose it is used for. Be provided with a slip free mechanism on the underside of the stiles or hooks or similar mechanisms on the top points. Be tied or held while it is being used so that it will remain sturdy under all conditions. Be a maximum of 9 m except in the case of sliding ladders and ladders that do not have to lean against any object.
  • Protection of the public

    Extract from SANS Part F: Site operations
    Regulation – F1 Protection of the Public

    1. In cases where danger or serious inconvenience to the public may ensue from the demolition or erection of a building on any site, the local authority may require that the owner of such site, before such work is commenced, shall erect a fence, hoarding or barricade to prevent the public from entering such site and to protect them from the activities on such site.
    2. Such fence, hoarding or barricade shall for as long as is necessary be retained and maintained by such owner in a safe condition, and any access to such site, and the means thereof, shall be subject to approval.
    3. No part of such fence, hoarding or barricade shall be removed without the permission, in writing, of the local authority until the work has been completed.
    4. Any person undertaking any work of erection or demolition on any site shall confine all operations in connection with such work within the boundaries of such site and shall not encroach upon or over any street or public place abutting such site, except with the prior written approval of the local authority, and subject to the conditions contained in such approval with regard to the safety and convenience of persons using such street or public place.
    1. The local authority may, before or during the erection or demolition of any building, impose any reasonable conditions in addition to the conditions and requirements contemplated in this regulation, for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of the general public, and every condition so imposed shall be observed by the owner.
    2. Any owner who contravenes or causes or permits any other person to contravene a requirement of this regulation or fails to comply with any notice served on him by the local authority ordering compliance with this regulation, or contravenes any condition contained in any approval, shall be guilty of an offence.
    Provisions for Worker facilities

    Certain aspects must be adhered to regarding provisions for workers on site:

    • At least one shower facility for every 15 workers;
    • At least one sanitary facility for every 30 workers;
    • Changing facilities for each sex;
    • Sheltered eating areas.
    Alexander G D & Van As F. 2008: Civil Technology. Johannesburg: EWA Publishing.
    South African Bureau of Standards. 2011/12 – SANS 10400 Part F. Pretoria. SABS Standards Division.