The Definitive Construction Safety Glossary
Acceptable Risk — The probability of either a hazard-related accident or a chemical exposure at a construction site is as low as reasonably probable.
Accident — A jobsite-related event that causes injury or ill health to a construction worker.
Accident Prevention Plan — The plans, preparations and actions taken to identify, assess and prevent hazards at a jobsite.
Action Item — A clearly defined task needing to be done to increase the level of safety precaution and awareness at a jobsite. For example, installing fire alarms inside a to-be-renovated building before any work has started.
Certification — A formal statement or document verifying that a specific person has been appropriately trained on a safety topic. Construction workers can receive certifications for machinery and tool operations as well as chemical handling, among many other topics.
Combustible — Material that can be burned in the air.
Compliance — Legally adhering to safety rules and regulations as set by governing legislation and regulatory agencies. Although not totally mandated in every sector of the construction industry, companies impacted by compliance can be liable for fines if they don’t adhere to the regulations.
Contamination — When an unwanted, hazardous substance is present in a work environment and poses a health and safety risk to the workers of that environment.
Control — A type of intervention used to mitigate workplace hazards. Contractors can use site inspections, risk assessments and Jobsite Hazard Analyses as forms of controls.
Corrective Action — An action taken to eliminate any non-conformance in a health and safety program. For example, during an inspection a contractor realizes a fire alarm is dead, the corrective action is to replace the batteries.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) — A lifesaving procedure consisting of chest compressions and artificial ventilation used to sustain brain function until blood circulation is restored in someone suffering from cardiac arrest.
Danger — An unsafe working condition that can cause damage, injury, loss or illness. Circumstances like shifts in flooring or wet surfaces are a few dangers in construction.
Damage — Physical harm caused to someone or something that impairs its normal value or function. For a contractor, damages can include an injured laborer or a broken machine.
Decontamination — The neutralizing of a dangerous substance from an area or person.
Deficiency — Some aspect of the jobsite or health and safety program is inadequate and could impact a worker’s mental or physical state if not corrected. One such deficiency in construction is incorrectly installed dry wall which can crack and crumble leading to potential injuries and
Electrocution — Exposure to a dangerous level of electricity.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP) — A document detailing the appropriate procedures necessary to perform during an emergency at the jobsite. Any construction company required to have an EAP must make sure their workers are trained in plan procedures as well.
Emergency Spill Response (ESP) — Actions performed to detain and clean up an unexpected hazardous liquid spill.
Entry Permit — A document indicating a specific space within a jobsite has been inspected and assessed as safe to enter.
Environmental Hazards — A substance or event occurring within the surrounding natural environment that could impact workers’ health while at a jobsite. At a construction jobsite some environmental hazards include gas emissions from machinery and extreme temperatures.
Emergency Preparedness and Response Program (EPR) — Plans outlining the appropriate responses in case of an emergency or natural disaster.
Error — An action or decision deviating from a mandatory safety procedure. For example, if a construction worker improperly handles a chemical — regardless if an injury occurs or not — that is still an error and must be recorded.
Emergency Response Plan (ERP) — A legally mandated plan providing information, guidelines and procedures to use during an emergency.
Fall Hazard — Anything at a jobsite that could cause accidental loss of balance or body control leading to a fall. Major fall hazards at construction sites include improper scaffolding and unprotected edges.
Fall Protection — Controls used to prevent workers from losing their balance and falling or — in the even of a fall — catch the worker before they’re injured. Fall protection is one of the most common OSHA violations in the construction industry.
Fire Prevention Plan — Documents outlining the processes used to identify and properly handle (or eliminate if necessary) combustible materials and other fire hazards.
Fire Protection — The study and practice of preventing potentially dangerous fires.
Flammable — Material that is easily ignited and burns quickly.
First Aid — Emergency treatment given to an injured worker while still at the jobsite. It is recommended that if a construction site is not reasonably near any medical facility, then at least one worker should be trained in first aid.
First Aid Kit — An easily accessible set of materials used to help an injured or ill worker while at the jobsite.
GHS Hazard Communication Standards — An internationally recognized set of standards used to train workers to identify chemical hazards based on the information provided on the product label and in Safety Data Sheets.
Harm — An adverse outcome or impact.
Hazard — Any source that can potentially cause harm or injury. Most safety regulations are created to mitigate the existence of hazards.
Hazard Determination — The process of evaluating a chemical against current scientific evidence to determine the chemical’s hazard level.
Hazardous Operations — Actions either using or in the presence of hazards that could cause serious damage to a worker. A construction worker can use Safety Data Sheets to determine if a chemical is a hazard or not.
Hazardous Waste — The waste form of a hazardous substance that can potentially cause adverse effects in workers if they’re exposed to the waste. Some of the most common found at a construction jobsite include: pesticides, asbestos and oils.
Incident — An unexpected and unplanned event that doesn’t result in harm but is worth reporting. For example, an installed beam falls during a construction project, no one is harmed but the occurrence has to be noted.
Incident Report — A formal document detailing the facts related to an incident at a jobsite.
Injury — Damage to a construction worker’s body.
Inspection — An on-site walkthrough of a construction jobsite to identify potential hazards and provide immediate remedies. An inspection is recommended at least ever six months and should be conducted by someone familiar with the jobsite.
Jobsite Hazard Assessment (Activity Hazard Analysis) — A technique emphasizing job tasks as the way to identify potential hazard. The focus is on analyzing workers and how they approach a task, use a tool, operate a machine and interact with their environment. In construction, a JHA determines what’s wrong with the jobsite today and requires immediate action.
Lockout, Tagout (LOTO) (The Control of Hazardous Energy) — A safety procedure used to ensure dangerous safety equipment is properly shut-off and cannot be used again after maintenance work is finished. The technique involves locking the machine up with some type of security system (for example, a padlock) and then tagging the security system to warn workers against use.
Loss Control and Prevention — The measures taken to reduce any damages caused by hazards. At a construction jobsite, one of the ways to prevent a loss is to identify risks and then avoid them altogether.
Lost-Time Injury — When a construction worker is hurt on a job and has to take at least one shift off to recover from their jobsite related injuries.
Medical Surveillance Program — The assessment of employees who’ve been exposed — or potentially exposed — to occupational hazards.
Near-Miss — An unplanned, close call event that has the potential to cause injury, harm or loss but doesn’t actually result in any damage. On a construction site, for example, a worker may slip while carrying a heavy object but doesn’t fall or get injured.
New Hire Safety Orientation — A program exposing new hires to a company’s safety culture. It is commonplace for construction companies to mandate new hires to pass a safety examination before being allowed to work.
Non-Conformance — Failure to meet specific safety requirements as set by government legislation and regulatory bodies. Depending on the agency conducting the inspection, non-conformances can lead to penalties if not corrected.
Occupational Hygiene (Industrial Hygiene) — The discipline of protecting worker health by anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling hazards that can cause harm.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — The health and safety regulatory agency within the U.S Department of Labor. OSHA ensures legally safe and healthy working conditions for employees by setting workplace standards, enforcing safety regulations and providing training, education and assistance. OSHA
The OSHA Act of 1970 — A U.S labor law formalizing workers’ rights to a safe workplace by requiring employers to provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
Overhead Protection — A physical obstruction — a piece of equipment or item of clothing — serving as a barrier between the head of a worker and a potential hazard.
Permissible Exposure Limits — The legal limit in the United States that an employee can get exposed to a chemical substance. Established by OSHA.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) — Clothing and equipment designed to protect workers against potential hazards and unsafe environments. (For example, goggles and gloves)
Pictograms — A graphic symbol that conveys it’s meaning through its resemblance to the subject matter. (For example, flammable is represented by a flame).
Risk — The probability of hazard-induced harm occurring based on an assessment of current circumstances at a jobsite.
Risk Assessment — The process of identifying and analyzing potential risks that could be involved at a jobsite. In construction, risk assessments are built to predict what could go wrong as opposed to what’s currently wrong.
Safety — The condition of being protected from harm and exposure.
Safety Action Plan — The plans, proposals and actions taken to eliminate dangerous exposures by identifying and disposing of any physical, biological, ergonomical or chemical hazards.
Safety Data Sheet — An informational document listing both the properties and the proper handling of a hazard. Everyone part of the construction project needs to have access to these papers for referencing.
Safety and Health Program — The policies a construction company uses to maintain a safe work environment.
Safety Meeting — A daily session held to remind workers of the safety practices they’ve learned and to update the team on current workplace safety priorities. Contractors or a site safety health official are usually the organizer.
Sanitation — The creation and maintenance of hygienic conditions to reduce the levels of disease-causing bacteria.
Site Safety Health Official — A qualified person who is responsible for the management of the safety and health of program of a company. Oftentimes this will be someone within the construction company familiar with the protocols such as a project manager or shift supervisor.
Site Specific Safety Plan — A written plan outlining the entire safety scope of a project by determining the who, what, where, when and how of the health and safety program.
Substandard (Unsafe) Act — An act that goes against safety protocols that leads directly to an incident. For example, a worker doesn’t label a wet surface at a jobsite and a coworker slips and falls.
Toolbox Talks — A short presentation provided to the workforce to educate and train them on a single, specific aspect of health and safety. Although not yet mandated by OSHA, many project owners are requiring their use. Toolbox Talks can be done in online portals, independently, making training the workforce easier on a contractor.
Unacceptable Risk — The probability of either a hazard-related accident or chemical exposure is high; the hazard must be controlled or eliminated before any more work can be completed.
Unsafe Employee Misconduct (Unpreventable Employee Misconduct) — Employee behavior that disregards mandated safety procedures, knowingly or unknowingly.
Workers Compensation — A type of insurance serving as a replacement for wages and medical benefits for employees who were injured while working.