Steel: The Safest Building Material

Published January 22, 2016 by Whirlwind Team

steel building material

Construction is considered one of the most hazardous professions. Anything that can increase safety and mitigate hazards is very welcome. Besides the usual methods of keeping workers safe, have you ever considered that the material you work with can make a difference?

Using steel for your next building project can reduce hazards and provide a safe work environment in a number of ways.

Off-site fabrication

Because a majority of the steel work takes place in a manufacturing plant rather than at the job site, many of the safety hazards associated with construction sites are removed.

  • Onsite metalwork is reduced or eliminated
  • Work at height is reduced to assembly procedures
  • Weather conditions have little to no impact on off-site fabrication
  • Work hours can be extended into night shift work

Without the need for extensive metalwork such as rolling, forming, or otherwise shaping steel at the job site, there is less chance of burns, fire, or (in summer) heatstroke or other overheating of workers. It also reduces injuries during the movement and repositioning of heavy steel components.

Since falls are one of the greatest hazards in working construction, reducing the time spent at height as well as the type of work performed there will reduce the chance for injury from falling and from working in awkward positions.

Structural stability of partially constructed buildings is threatened by high wind, and work hours can be cut short from rain or snow. A prefabricated structure, however, is not subjected to any weather conditions inside the factory. Once complete, less time is required to erect the building at the job site minimizing the possibility of injury or death from falling members in high winds or unstable foundations.

Extending work into the night time hours can increase the chances of an accident on a job site, regardless of the amount of lighting provided. Working in the dark and moving from brightly lit areas to those in deep shadow make trips, collisions, and injury from equipment more likely; but in a manufacturing environment, night shifts are easily accommodated. Plus, the surrounding community is not disturbed with the sounds of construction.

Fabricating steel buildings within a manufacturing environment has other safety features:

  • The building is created in highly regulated conditions
  • A factory has permanent access and exclusion areas; workers will always know where these are.
  • The use of automated and semi-automated machines reduces the number of workers needed and removes dangerous procedures from human hands.
  • Turning and repositioning heavy steel members is no longer needed.
  • Errors are mitigated so there is less rework on site.
  • There is little need for long term storage and handling at the job site.

These are the risks reduced simply from fabricating away from the job site. Prefabrication has other safety perks for you and your crew.


Erection planning plays a large part in a safe and efficient site. Prefabrication lends itself well to 3-D preplanning of material movement and site layout to ensure areas of exclusion and access are created as part of the construction plan.

A trial erection, while the building is still at the factory, can determine the best and safest method of erection at the construction site.  A trial provides an opportunity to perform a partial risk assessment, to plan a more effective construction procedure, and to identify hazards and remediate.

Prefabrication can include partial erection as well. Parts of the structure can be assembled prior to delivery, decreasing the amount of work done at the site and reducing even more of height work.

Finally, modern manufacturing systems are capable of making precision components. When parts are manufactured to tight specifications, your workers will find they need to address fewer errors after delivery.

Safer on-site construction

As the general contractor, you are principally responsible for all workplace safety and hazardous issues. It is up to you to provide safe access and working positions, ensure safe lifting and placement of components, and that the partially constructed building is stable.

As you already know, a construction site can be an accident waiting to happen. The hazards mainly come from:

  • Lifting large, heavy components into place
  • Instability and failure of partially erected structures
  • Falls from height due to working position or gaining access to working position
  • Transporting, moving, and repositioning materials

Differing factors on projects

Each project is different so the same practices and skills will not equally apply to all projects.

When you know you will be building a premanufactured structure, you can hire highly skilled workers who are less prone to accidents. Many other hazards can be significantly reduced using a prefabricated steel building; manufacturing introduces standardization. Your crew will reap the benefits of standardized connections and members. With repetition, they will master the practices required for this particular project quickly. Mastery results in fewer errors and better safety.

Workers with certifications in specialized areas, who are trained in a single discipline, are more highly qualified to do the work. They will get the job done faster, safer, and without mistakes.

Along with more highly trained workers, a prefabricated building has other safety features:

  • Framed steelwork construction quickly becomes stable, even when partially erected
  • Steel is strong enough to withstand stresses from erection processes taking place atop it
  • It is easy to fit stairs, lifts, and other means of safe access for all trades within a steel frame
  • Decking and slabs provide a sturdy platform to work on and protection for those below from falling objects (or the occasional human body).

Steel, as a building material, has other strengths. It is easily and safely modified or dismantled. Steel is also safe to recycle.

Steel is the safest material

So there you have it. Steel is the safest material you can use to construct any building. Steel buildings can be prefabricated offsite in a manufacturing environment. This provides additional safety to both your crew and those who manufacture and trial erect the structure. The manufacturing environment is highly regulated for safety and hazardous material handling.

Once transported to the site, a prefabricated steel building arrives ready to erect, minimizing the need for long term storage. Much of the construction process is complete, reducing the need for an extensive crew and work done at height.

An additional bonus is that steel has been around for a long time. Over the years, the industry has developed training programs and certifications that prove your crew has the knowledge to work with a prefabricated building, adding value to your business. A good safety record is just icing on the cake.

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