It is not easy to predict when the weather will get warmer, but one thing that is certain to occur: with the rise in temperatures each year, comes the renovation season! Winters are, in general, unbearably rough when it comes to renovating a building or an open landscape. They lead to losses in productivity and often to the occurrences of various types of injury. In most cases, project managers and planners cluster renovation projects around warmer temperatures. Does a higher number in the thermostat instantly mean safer work conditions for on-site workers and a reduced number of workplace injuries? It is not always the case.
Nonetheless, the answer to the above is affirmative if renovation managers execute projects with the proper planning and precautions. The following is a list of items to be considered to keep renovation projects safe and most importantly, to exercise due diligence in trying to prevent accidents from happening.
Before project start:
Plan well – The best way to control renovation risks is to recognize well in advance the various types of hazard present in the work areas and include specialists, such as environmental consultants, who can assess risks and recommend effective mitigation strategies in areas where your knowledge is incomplete. Good project management, such as effective scheduling of work, can prevent rushing through renovation activities, decreasing employment turnover rates, workplace injuries and runaway vendor costs. Understanding the potential issues that can arise on a project and at least talking with a consultant to see if external assistance is necessary is a good way to avoid costly surprises, stop work orders and other project liabilities.
Understand the applicable safety guidelines and regulations – Knowledge of guidelines and regulations is key to ensure safety for all pertinent personnel and reduce potential liabilities. These regulations govern requirements for air quality, asbestos, lead, drinking water quality, fall protection, ladder safety and other aspects of construction. While they are available from many online sources, these regulations can be complex and it is prudent to engage a consultant if you have any doubts in their application.
Provide training –To work around unsafe chemicals and to minimize the event of an injury, workers have to be competent. A competent worker, defined under the OSHA , is a person that possesses knowledge, training and experience to perform the work; is familiar with the Act; and has knowledge of all potential or actual danger to health and safety in the work. That is why training is mandatory for all workers performing renovation activities as well as personnel with supervisory roles. Thus it is the worker`s duty to attend training sessions and it is the responsibility of supervisors to ensure they are provided.
Set up good housekeeping –Establish designated areas for equipment storage, lunch breaks, and other special activities such as welding, drilling and cutting. Having these areas set up correctly will serve as a means to prevent worker exposure to toxic substances and will minimize the possibility of tools from falling from heights or obstructing the view of an easily identifiable fire hazard.
Know the materials present onsite – Understand all of the materials on site and determine which types are hazardous as described under different government acts. One of the ways of achieving this is by ensuring that SDS documentation is present for all chemicals. Additionally, materials may contain substances referred to as Designated Substances. When handling or disturbing them, renovators are obligated to follow specific procedures and guidelines. It is a good practice to identify these materials, figure out the types of contaminants present, and determine their respective health concerns. Consultants are available to assess risks and conduct sampling of such substances, as required before any renovation work.
Be aware of exposure limits for all hazards present– The outcomes of overexposure to hazardous substances are not always noticeable immediately. They may be long-term and go unnoticed for years. To avoid threatening consequences for both workers and employers in the long run, it is important to ensure safe work conditions with your existing exposure amounts. If exposure exceeds pre-set limits, employers should ensure that workers follow the correct measures to avoid serious health effects.
Awareness of heat stress – Some industrial plant renovations involve the contractors working in hot environments, around steam pipes and/or hot water lines. Heat sources can present serious hazards and discomforts to workers, causing illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. An Assessment of Heat Stress/Strain would help prevent health hazards in this environment.
Constant monitoring of workspace – Determine if your work environment is safe for entry and for the performance of renovation activities. Certain environments are mandated to be constantly monitored because the level of toxic chemicals may change during the work processes. An example of these environments is the inside of a boiler, classified as a confined space under OHSA, due to atmospheric hazards and the potential event where oxygen level falls below the acceptable range.
During renovations activity:
Consider ergonomics – A healthy individual shows better productivity and performance at work . Ergonomics in a renovation sites is a serious consideration: it includes the use of mechanical lifting, less carrying, use of of ergonomically designed tools to reduce awkward postures, adequate break times, warm clothing, etc. Therefore, it is important to consider ergonomics when managing a renovation project. Even healthy employees are prone to ergonomic injuries.
Use appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – personnel would be deterred from renovation activities if they feel that the appropriate PPE were not provided. Project managers must analyze carefully the scope of work and determine the appropriate PPE specific to the work. PPE must only be selected in accordance with the various CSA requirements . For example, respirator fit testing helps ensure that workers are not breathing in unsafe substances.
Although there is a great number of safety and health related concerns in a renovation site,There are even greater ways to keep the same work environment safe. This list was provided for reference, to interested project managers and planners who are considering a renovation project for their sites. It is always important to start planning your projects with safety in mind. If in doubt, consult industry experts regarding any of the above-mentioned items. T. Harris Environmental Management(THEM) personnel have extensive knowledge and training when dealing with renovation projects, and always make themselves available to their valuede clients. THEM`s technical expertise helps industry leaders successfully and safely renovate on their sites, specializes in providing hazardous materials management, corporate training, environmental site assessments, indoor air quality assessments, and much more.
 Morrison, K. W. (2012, July 1). What is a ‘competent person’? Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/what-is-a-competent-person-2
 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.ihsa.ca/topics_hazards/ppe.aspx
 Ergonomics Retrieved February 15, 2018, from https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/ergonomics