Construction Safety Guide

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley takes safety very seriously. Safety is always an important consideration at our construction sites. Building construction can be dangerous—especially when inexperienced workers are involved. Since Habitat volunteer work crews are normally inexperienced, everyone must pay particular attention to safety issues. Your personal safety and the safety of your team must be considered at all times. Habitat has developed a set of online classes which go over site safety in detail. Click here to Access the Course Material. We recommend taking the “Volunteering On A Habitat for Humanity Job Site” and “You Are Exposed: General Affiliate Safety” courses, but you are more than welcome to take any of the 100+ courses. Volunteers may also watch our 19-minute safety video below.

Your Project Director will:

  • INSPECT and CLEAN all power tools, hand tools, ladders, and scaffolding
  • MAINTAIN a clean, safe work site
  • KNOW where the first-aid kit is located and how to get emergency help

As a volunteer, we ask that you:

  • THINK before you begin
  • ASK questions
  • BE CERTAIN that you understand instructions, procedures, and expectations before beginning
  • CONCENTRATE on your task, eliminating all distractions
  • ADVISE your supervisor IMMEDIATELY of any safety concerns


Protective Safety Equipment

  • Proper clothing is essential. Wear clothes and gloves that are appropriate for the work and for the weather conditions. Please note: Loose clothing is dangerous around power tools. While work gloves are necessary for most construction, they should not be worn while operating circular saws.
  • Work boots or thick-soled shoes are a must for any construction site. Any worker wearing sandals or other inappropriate footwear will not be allowed on the construction site.
  • Hard hats are required while doing demolition work, during the framing phase of construction, when people are working above you with any potential of falling objects, or when required by the Project Director or Crew Leader.
  • Protective glasses must be worn when operating a power tool or when instructed by a Project Director or Crew Leader.
    Dust masks must be worn for demolition, installing insulation, sanding, or when required by a Projecct Director or Crew Leader.
  • Earplugs should be worn when using a power tool for a prolonged period of time or when instructed by a Project Director or Crew Leader.
  • Hard hats, protective glasses, dust masks, and earplugs will be made available on each job site.

Tools and Other Electrical Equipment

  • A power tool should never be operated without proper instruction on its use and dangers.
  • In order to ensure everyone’s safety, instruction will be given on site by a qualified staff member to all workers—even experienced do-it-yourselfers will receive instruction from the Construction Manager, Project Director, and/or a Crew Leader.
  • Never lower or carry a power tool by its cord.
  • To avoid electric shock, a three-pronged plug must be used on all electric power tools. Extension cords must not be frayed, hung from nails, or suspended from wires. All temporary lights must be equipped with non-conductive guards.
  • Inform your supervisor immediately if any tools or electrical equipment seem defective.

Hand Tools

  • Your Project Director will make sure that all hand tools are in working order.
  • When using tools, handle them correctly and carefully. Most edged tools should be held in both hands with the cutting edge away from your body. Keep edged and pointed tools turned downward.
  • Carry only a few tools at a time unless they are mounted in a special container or carried in a tool belt.
  • Anyone working with a hammer at a height should wear a hammer loop or tool belt.
  • Do not carry sharp tools in your pocket.
  • When not in use, return tools to their place.
  • If possible, avoid using your hand or fingers as a guide to start a cut. Always use extreme caution.
  • A special word on saws:
    • Do not bind the blade of any saw. When cutting long panels, the blade may bind, and the saw mill will catch and kick back toward the operator. Use small wood wedges or shim shingles to spread the saw cut as you go.
    • Support what you are working on properly. Never attempt to cut something that could tilt or fall and cause the saw to slip.


  • Your Project Director will make sure all ladders are safe.
    Use a ladder that will reach the work. An extension ladder should reach 3 feet above the work level.
  • When using an extension ladder, use the “4-to-1” rule: for every 4 feet of height, move the ladder 1 foot away from the wall. A ladder is pitched at the proper, safe angel if you can grasp a rung at shoulder height with your feet at the bottom of the ladder and arms stretched out straight in front of you.
  • Move your ladder with your work. If both of your shoulders are outside the ladder while you are working, you are reaching too far.
  • Place your ladder on solid footing. Ask your supervisor if you need help leveling the ladder.
  • Make sure nothing is on the top of a step ladder before you move it.
  • Never use an aluminum ladder in the vicinity of electrical lines.
  • Never use a ladder outdoors during inclement weather or on windy days.
  • When climbing, always face the ladder.
  • Carry tools and materials in proper carrying devices and keep your hands free for climbing.


  • When scaffolding is required, your Project Director will be responsible for its design, construction, and maintenance.
  • Please do not create your own scaffolding.

Clean Work Site

  • A clean work place is a safe work place.
  • Make the cleaning up of debris and scraps an ongoing part of the construction process.
  • Position materials and supplies in carefully laid out piles to allow adequate aisles and walkways.
  • When not in use, return tools and other equipment to the proper place.

Poisons and Toxic Substances

  • Do not attempt to handle any questionable items on your own. Consult your Project Director immediately.

Emergency Medical Care

  • Our goal is to have accident and injury-free construction sites. Should an accident or injury occur, alert your Project Director immediately.