Summer Safety: Tips from Construction Pros
Some have called it "the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer." No, it’s not the name of the season’s latest blockbuster movie. It’s the name given to the few months between Memorial Day and Labor Day when the country opens up for vacations, pool parties and barbecues, and, while there’s much fun to be had, there are more non-work-related hospital visits than during any other period of the year.
Preventable injuries have been on the rise in recent years and are currently the third leading cause of death in the US. With a staggering 39 million preventable injuries and more than 131,000 deaths in homes and communities in 2019, it’s worth a pause before the temperatures rise to talk about some ways to keep you and those you love safe. (https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/all-injuries/overview/)
We tend to call preventable deaths and injuries “accidents,” but that term is misleading. They are by no means unavoidable. With proper planning and precautions, we can simply prevent them from happening.
The most commonly reported household accidents might be a bit surprising. Poisoning tops the list, mostly driven by opioid related fatalities, but the ingestion by children of household chemicals and medications is a real concern. Getting struck by falling objects, choking, and falls/slips are common, with cuts and lacerations, burns, strangulation, fires and drowning regularly occurring but avoidable household accidents.
Here are some common household injuries and things to consider as we head into the dog days of summer.
“Securing household chemicals and disposing of any expired medications will drastically reduce the risk of accidental poisoning in the home.” Joe Garza, DPR EHS Leader
Contractors deal with a variety of hazardous substances on-site. Fortunately, most homes don’t have those risks, but some of the same techniques about planning and handling still apply.
People rightly think of household poisoning as more commonly affecting children, but when poisoning cases do happen in teens and adults, they are typically more serious. Prevention, as with most other accidents, requires thoughtful planning.
- Keep medicines and cleaning supplies in secured areas, up (not under your kitchen sink…) away from kids.
- Ensure that when you do administer medications to children, closely follow label instructions, and always dispose of expired or unneeded meds or supplements.
- Don’t forget carbon monoxide poisoning—invest in some carbon monoxide detectors and check them regularly.
Falls and Falling Objects
“Watch for rotted trees/branches when setting up a camp site. That shade could be deadly in a high breeze.”
Jorge Torres, DPR EHS Leader
Contractors go to great lengths to prevent these incidents for a reason: they cause injuries, sometimes fatally. With summer gatherings, especially as pandemic restrictions are lifted, things we’ve taken for granted at home may need to be re-evaluated. We’ve all heard stories of toddlers climbing bookshelves and stoves only to be pinned beneath them. Be careful with such furniture and large household products such as flat screen TVs and dressers. And while falls occur most frequently with the elderly, they can happen to anyone.
- Anchor furniture to the walls, keep TVs on low and sturdy surfaces and ALWAYS use the anchor brackets that come with them. Make sure cords are placed away from areas where people walk, never under carpets or routed through doors.
- Keep high-traffic areas well-lit and free of clutter, secure loose rugs, and make sure stairway handrails are sturdy.
- Keep potentially slippery surfaces like bathroom floors and outdoor walkways clean and dry.
- When using ladders, make sure they are securely positioned and ask for someone to help you keep them secure when in use!
“Drowning events don’t play out like a scene from “JAWS.” It’s usually a silent struggle. Keep your eyes on the water.”
Joe Garza, DPR EHS Leader
Contractors always consider what hazards their workspaces present. Similarly, consider risks when out and about, such as trips to the pool. When temps rise, so do the numbers of people engaging in water sports—but drowning also occurs in the bathtub.
- Never leave kids unattended while bathing or swimming, or in a tub or toddler pool.
- Surround pools with fencing that includes self-closing, self-latching gates, and as an added precaution, buy an alarm (worn or floating) that sounds off when something (like a child) falls in the water.
- Use life vests, not flotation toys, for younger kids who aren’t confident swimmers.
- Learn CPR, just like many of DPR’s workers in the field have. Teach children how to swim as early as you can.
“Adult choking victims often leave the room due to embarrassment and not wanting to panic in front of others. So, if you see a choking person leave the room, please follow them and offer your assistance. Better to be embarrassed but breathing.” Michelle Gray, DPR EHS Leader
Pretty much everyone has experienced or witnessed a choking scare, highlighting the fact that it presents a risk to all of us. Children are particularly vulnerable, so teaching them safe habits, such as not talking while chewing, and taking care in the food they have access to are key.
- Stay away from small, hard pieces that can get stuck in their throats, as well as certain soft foods that can be harder to chew, like hot dogs and grapes.
- Keep objects that present choking hazards for kids—coins, balloons, marbles—out of reach.
- Make sure you know how to properly perform the Heimlich maneuver.
Cuts and Lacerations
This frequent category of jobsite incident is common at home, as well. Common daily tasks like cooking and simple household repairs can become dangerous if we aren’t focused, careful and using the proper tools.
- Secure sharp objects and tools out of the reach of children.
- Latch drawers, dishwashers and toolboxes.
- Make sure outdoor areas are tidy and free from hazards such as discarded building materials, or loose boards, steps or railings.
- Consider some of the PPE the pros use: the right gloves can make all the difference, from the garden to the garage.
Burns and Fires
“This year looks to be the worst fire season on record for the West Coast, so be sure to properly secure all deliveries and vehicles, with no chains or other material creating sparks while driving. And remember that while we all want to celebrate the Fourth of July, fireworks pose a clear and present danger to property and can lead to permanent and life-changing trauma. Stay safe while celebrating this summer.” Michelle Gray, DPR EHS Leader
Fire safety is important no matter where you are, and construction sites are always equipped with fire extinguishers and plans in case of fire. But fire safety starts in the home. With barbecue season in full swing and Independence Day on the horizon, refocus your attention toward preventing burns.
- Keep matches and other fire starters in secure locations and take care when using them.
- Don’t leave cooking food unattended and closely watch children around fires.
- Check your smoke detectors regularly and have a fire extinguisher or two in your house.
- Do not overload outlets or extension cords.
- Keep combustible materials away from heat.
- Don’t store the spare propane tank in the house or out in the sun.
Finally, a tip: Don’t just plan for the safety of your family, but also for those who are visiting. Your children may have been warned to stay away from threats in your home, like guns, the dog that hates kids, or the cellar stairs, but those who visit would have no way of knowing.
Plan for that too.
Posted on May 20, 2021
Last Updated August 23, 2022