Keeping the Worksite Safe: Surviving Common Home Renovation Hazards

Legal document for sale of real estate, with a gold-nibbed fountain pen and house keys

If you’re reading this, you‘re likely a contractor looking to make sure their employees stay safe while working on someone else’s project. It’s no surprise you want to learn as much as you can about the potential hazards involved in home improvement, as old walls tend to contain a variety of secrets, nasty surprises for those who dare to tear them down.

Moving away from the poetic and into the pragmatic, home improvement is a business that is filled with occupational hazards, one which has become further complicated by the advent of the pandemic: as such, it’s crucial that you and your workers take care to follow all safety regulations associated with the type of job you’re taking on, and if you’re doing it yourself, it’s essential that you don’t try and go beyond your depth.

As a contractor looking to keep your employees safe, it’s important to know about some of the things that you can come across while you’re renovating a home. As such, the following list identifies some well-known housing industry hazards and will give you the tools necessary to escape unharmed when you encounter them; or at least, to give yourself the best chance of recouping your injuries, should you be unsuccessful.

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Call it the boogeyman of the industry, as dangerous and well-known as black mold. A single mention of this potentially cancerous material will clear a worksite out in minutes, and for a good reason.

Asbestos was used as a building material not too long ago, incorporated into a variety of projects because of its durability and its ability to resist heat; little did ye olde construction companies know, asbestos has also been credibly linked to the development of mesothelioma and other cancers. With how often it was used in buildings back then, the chances are good of you coming across asbestos on the job one day.

When that happens, inform your supervisor immediately and withdraw from the property. You’ll need to get a professional who specializes in dealing with the material to clear the asbestos out before you can safely begin working again. If your supervisor insists on not expanding the effort to make sure it’s removed accurately, or even if they do follow proper protocol and you still develop health concerns, make sure you’ve got the number of a good lawyer on hand.

Creatures in the Dark

Sensationalistic as that heading may be, you have no idea what you may encounter when entering homes that haven’t been used in a while or even areas of occupied homes that the owners don’t frequent often, like the basement or attic. Depending on where the property is located, you may encounter different creatures, such as brown recluses, snakes, wasps, rats, or even scorpions.

As such, it’s always a good idea to make sure that every single one of your workers is covered head to toe in clothing and PPE, especially when going into enclosed spaces like crawlspaces where these creatures tend to thrive. If you’re planning on going yourself, make sure you’re equipped with thick rubber gloves, covered head-to-toe in clothing, and have adequate lighting: if you see something scary while working on your property, withdraw as calmly as possible and call a professional to extract or kill the said creature. Different professionals deal with different problems, and you’re a contractor, not animal control: don’t be afraid to let the owner know that they’ll have to get someone else involved.

Mold, Mildew, and Other Concerns

Remember when black mold was mentioned up above? That’s because next to asbestos, black mold is one of the most dangerous things you can encounter on-site, with long-lasting negative effects if you’re exposed to it for a prolonged period of time. Similar to asbestos, you’ll also need a professional to extract and remove any black mold you discover: deadlines can wait, your safety and the safety of others is more important.

For other cases of mold that might be less severe, like mildew or less dangerous varieties, common sense will be your guide as to whether you can take it on with chemicals from your department store or whether you should have a specialist deal with it as well. The recommendation would be to hire a specialist, as no matter what your clients are paying or the deadline involved, it’s not worth the risk.

Home renovation is naturally unsafe and brimming with potential for hazardous scenarios to occur, but having a general knowledge of what can befall you, taking proper precautions, and having an exit strategy in your back pocket can help you keep yourself and others safe on the job.