Costa Rican construction and safety standards are detailed in the country’s Construction Security Regulation (Decree No. 25235-MTSS). These rules detail the main risk factors present during each phase of the construction process and the necessary precautions builders must take.
Areas covered include regulations on storage of materials, demolition, raising structures, moving cargo, high-altitude construction work and jobs that require excavation.
The National Insurance Institute (INS) recommends that, prior to beginning projects involving excavation, developers conduct studies regarding the type and conditions of the soil in which the excavation will take place, traffic levels, proximity to other physical structures, the existence of subterranean water deposits, the location of public service wires and pipes, and local weather conditions. Working conditions must be subject to constant supervision for the duration of the project.
For high-altitude construction jobs, INS recommends careful use of hand ladders (using ladders that are in good condition and have solid structures and never standing on the top rung of the ladder), adequate use of scaffolding (scaffolding should have a solid structure, be completely level before being used, have protective railing and be designed to adequately handle the height at which the project is developed) and adequate use of personal protection equipment such as harnesses and safety ropes.
To ensure the safety of third parties, INS recommends that the construction firm clearly mark the area where construction is taking place, limit access to the site and use proper signage to inform passersby. It is also necessary to restrict access to the site to only authorized personnel and ensure that those with access wear hard hats and other safety equipment.
The country’s labor code mandates that all workers have workers’ risk insurance, which allows employers, through relatively small payments, to protect themselves from potentially large expenses if a worker becomes incapacitated as a result of workrelated illness or accident. This type of insurance covers the costs of medical and surgical treatment, hospital stays, prescription drugs and rehabilitation. It also provides compensation in cases of death or temporary and permanent incapacity.
In terms of insurance for construction projects and construction itself, INS offers an “all construction risk” insurance, which, in addition to insuring the project against direct damage caused by fires, earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, strong winds, landslides and other natural disasters, also covers liability for third-party damage.
INS also offers contracted-equipment insurance for construction projects, which covers equipment and heavy machinery while it is being used on a project. Covering equipment such as backhoes, tractors and trucks, this type of insurance is similar to car insurance in that it covers collision, theft and other accidents; however, equipment is covered only while it is on the construction site.
Buying Safety Equipment
The best insurance against injury on a construction site is prevention through the use of functioning safety equipment, such as hard hats, goggles, reflective vests and harnesses, which can be bought at most of the country’s major hardware and do-ityourself stores.
Ferreterías El Mar has locations in San José (2256-4636), the eastern suburbs of Curridabat (2253-1350) and San Pedro (2234-6898) and the western suburb of Escazú (2289-9192).
Almacén Técnico Capris has stores in downtown San José (2222-4052) and the northwestern district of La Uruca (2519-5000).
Abonos Agro has stores in La Uruca (2211-5100), the Southern Zone city of Pérez Zeledón (2771-3666) and Abangares (2519-4900) in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
EPA has stores in Curridabat (2224-4936) and Escazú (5588-1122).
Construplaza (2215-3000), a larger do-it-yourself center, is located in Guachipelín de Escazú.
In Guanacaste, the Papagayo Do It Center (2672-2032) is another safe bet.