As we enter June, the United States’ designated National Safety Month, it’s important to highlight ways we can improve safety measures in our daily lives, specifically for those in the construction industry. Construction workers are at a higher risk of death and injury than many other working groups because of the moving parts and heavy machinery they contend with.
In 2017, there were 971 deaths in the construction industry, mostly from what OSHA identifies as the “Fatal Four”—falls, struck by object, electrocution and caught-in-between. These four causes contributed to about 60% of construction-related deaths, or the loss of about 582 lives.
Because construction-related injuries and deaths are so common, our Workplace Safety Survey identified that construction workers are 27% more likely to worry about being injured on the job than those in other industries. The CFOI confirmed this staggering statistic by stating that in 2017 one in five of all workplace fatalities happened in the construction industry.
Although OSHA is working toward reducing and eliminating these construction-related industry injuries and deaths, they can’t be successful without the help and participation of construction workers and those in the construction industry. Below we will dive into these Fatal Four, what they are, and ways construction workers can prevent them.
Largest Contributor: Falls
Falls make up the largest portion of the Fatal Four, contributing to 39% of deaths in 2017 and making them a key construction injury source that needs to be eliminated.
With workers commonly utilizing ladders, stairways, and scaffolding, there are a variety of precautionary measures that need to be taken into account on every worksite. For example, worksites using ladders need to ensure stable ground, whereas, with scaffolding, the bindings are very important. No matter what heights you’re conquering, investing in fall protection gear and providing safety training can work incredibly well to saving lives.
Specific ways construction sites can decrease fall-related injuries and deaths are adding harnesses, toe rails, handrails, and ensuring workers are wearing required personal protective gear. For additional safety tips, check out our construction safety course.
Second-Largest Contributor: Struck-by-Object
Workers being struck or hit by objects is the second largest contributor to construction site accidents. Although not nearly as large of an issue as construction workers falling, 8% of construction worker deaths in 2017 were from flying objects and debris and suspended or rolling loads striking them.
This member of the Fatal Four is especially dangerous because it catches construction workers off-guard. If something is falling, and a worker is not paying attention and focusing on their own task, they won’t even have time to react and avoid the object.
Construction workers look everywhere at once, but they can wear the right protective gear to prevent struck-by-object related injuries. For those who use power tools, OSHA recommends wearing face masks, eyewear, and appropriate hand protection.
OSHA also mandates that everyone on a worksite must wear a hard hat—even if there is no work going on. Most importantly, construction workers need to be they’re visible at all times. This will ensure that machine operators and fellow workers can appropriately notice you.
Third-Largest Contributor: Electrocutions
Over 7% of construction-related deaths were caused by electrocutions in 2017, and it’s easy to understand why. After all, electricity causes more than 300 deaths a year in the general population, so it makes sense that it’s one of the common causes of construction accidents.
In fact, in our Workplace Safety Survey, 13% of participants in the construction industry identified electrical hazards as their main safety concern. Because construction workers are at a higher risk of electrocution than the general population, OSHA has become very strict in requiring electricity-related safety training.
Although the causes of electrocutions can vary, almost all of them can be avoided with training and safety precautions, like using quality personal protective equipment. To safely work with electricity, construction workers should be aware of and trained on the following topics:
- Arc Flashes
- Lockout and Tagout Standards
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Testing before Touching
To learn details and practical applications on the above topics, make sure you’re enrolled in our construction safety course.
Fourth Largest Contributor: Caught-in-Between
Although it only accounted for 5% of construction-related injuries and deaths, the caught-in-between injury source is still one that should and can be prevented and eliminated. When OSHA and training modules refer to “caught-in-between” they’re referring to construction workers that perished when caught in, compressed or crushed by equipment or structures.
Caught-in-between construction injuries typically occur when equipment rolls over or when the equipment is unattended. It’s important that only trained equipment operators to use the machinery and that all other personnel understand where the machine’s crush points and moving mechanisms are.
Construction workers can prevent caught-in-between injuries with OSHA-standard training, utilizing lockout and tagout procedures and wearing the proper clothing and accessories.
Invest in Construction Safety Training
Employers and businesses are investing in safety training and proper protection to prevent the Fatal Four and other injuries, but there is still room for improvement. It is our goal at OSHAcampus to continue to reduce the amount of construction-related injuries and deaths with efficient safety training and continual education.
Make sure you’re signed up for our construction safety course and implement our safety best practices to reduce deaths and injuries on your worksite.