There are many aspects of job-site safety—it doesn't just happen with a snap of your fingers. It takes time and effort to learn and implement practices and procedures that will keep your employees safe.
Distractions can hinder your ability to observe your surroundings for unsafe conditions or situations and should be limited. Cell phones, texting, music, and friendly chats all have their time and place, but they can affect your awareness. Focusing on quality and efficiency while staying alert can be easily achieved with proper training.
Morning safety meetings are critical in knowing the different activities occurring on the job site each day. Some areas of the site may need to be avoided by those who are not working in those areas. For example, if there is excavation work with heavy equipment and trucks entering and leaving the site, it would be best for others to avoid those areas. This could also apply to overhead work, such as setting structural steel, or demolition work.
Be aware of job-site activities outside your specific work area that could negatively affect you. For example, jackhammering in another area of the building could still result in dangerous noise levels in your work area. Another example is the use of chemicals, paints, and epoxy. Odors can travel throughout a building, so proper ventilation must be addressed.
As expected, your immediate work area can present the most hazards and is where extra vigilance must take place. It is very important for tradespeople to have their work areas set up properly. The better you are set up to work, the safer you will be. Heavy-duty sawhorses should be used for stacking and cutting lumber. Clean work surfaces, such as tables, work well for assembly. Walking or standing surfaces should be level with no tripping hazards. Electrical cords and power tools should be thoroughly inspected before use and blades and bits should be sharp. Guardrails and handrails should be installed where needed. Proper lighting and ladder inspection are also important.
Learning to use your peripheral vision and getting into the habit of recognizing it can certainly help in keeping aware of your surroundings.
Peripheral vision is the capacity to see out of the corner of your eyes both sideways and up and down. Being able to see outside your direct line of vision without having to turn your head is a skill that can help you avoid accidents related to tripping, falling, dangerous machinery, and more. When you are unaware of your peripheral vision, it will take more effort to notice your surroundings.
Central vision is the field of view in the center of your vision as you look straight ahead. It is sometimes called the center of gaze. You get a more complete view of your surroundings when you also use your peripheral vision. The loss of peripheral vision is a condition known as tunnel vision.
According to Dr. William Goldstein, a normal visual field is approximately 170 degrees around, with 100 degrees including the peripheral vision. Dr. Goldstein breaks down the peripheral vision into three segments of the field of view. The vision at the edge of the field of view is your “far-peripheral vision, the vision in the middle of the field of view is your “mid-peripheral vision,” and the vision just adjacent to the center of gaze is your “near-peripheral vision.”
You should never assume a heavy equipment operator on a job site can see you, even when wearing a safety vest. This is when your peripheral vision can help avoid accidents.