Construction is a dangerous industry. The best way to arm yourself against the dangers you face in your daily job is to learn about the most common safety hazards in construction. Below we will go over the top causes of death in construction, the most common hazards in the construction industry, and how you can stay safe.
An Introduction to the Fatal Four
As we mentioned above, OSHA breaks down the top safety hazards into four main categories, collectively known as the Fatal Four. They include falls, struck-by object, electrocutions, and caught-in-between.
The best ways to prevent the Fatal Four vary depending on the specific type of safety hazards, but they can largely be prevented with proper safety training and appropriate personal protective equipment.
Now that you understand the Fatal Four as a whole, let’s take a look into each one of the hazard categories individually.
The largest segment of the Fatal Four is falls, which contribute to about 36% of all construction deaths. This category includes those who fell off scaffolding, high buildings and ladders, as well as those who have fallen into holes.
How to Prevent Falls
According to OSHA, the majority of these deaths could have been prevented with appropriate protective equipment like harnesses and guardrails. Construction workers can also prevent falls with the proper planning and inspecting of the worksite and tools, like scaffolding and ladders, prior to using them.
As the name suggests, the struck-by-object category of the Fatal Four consists of any death that occurs from debris or objects hitting a construction worker. The struck-by-object category composes 10% of all deaths in the construction industry—and can also be the most frightening as they often happen unexpectedly.
Because struck-by-object deaths happen when a rigging breaks, or there’s a misplaced object or flying debris, construction workers typically don’t have time to react and move out of the way.
How to Prevent Struck-By-Object Accidents
The best way to prevent struck-by-object deaths is with personal protective equipment like hard hats. Hard hats should be mandatory on all construction sites, even when they’re not active, as objects can break or fall at any time.
About 9% of construction worker deaths are caused by electrocutions. There are dozens of untamed electrical hazards on work sites, with each one posing the threat of electrocution. The largest electrical hazard is exposed wiring, which includes exposed overhead lines, energized conductors and electrical panels.
How to Prevent Electrocutions
The best way to avoid electrocution from exposed wires and lines is to stay away from them. However, when that’s not possible, workers should use protective gear to diminish any conduction of electricity.
While caught-in-between deaths are the smallest contributor to the Fatal Four, they still contribute to 2% of deaths in the construction industry. For context, caught-in-between refers to deaths caused by employees getting stuck in between machines and equipment, or deaths from trench or structural collapses.
How to Prevent Caught-In-Between Accidents
While hard hats and other protective equipment can certainly prevent death in the case of an accident, the best ways to prevent equipment caught-in-between deaths is by ensuring only properly trained personnel use the equipment. On the other hand, the best way to prevent collapse is by correctly constructing and maintaining trenches and buildings.
Additional Construction Safety Hazards
Now that we’ve covered the Fatal Four, let’s dive into some other construction safety hazards that you’ll need to account for.
With so much excitement and movement on a construction site, it’s hard to be fully aware of everything that’s going on 100% of the time. That chaos combined with heavy equipment can lead to catastrophe. The best ways to avoid construction safety risks caused by moving objects are to:
- Keep the workplace tidy
- Ensure all workers are aware of the use of equipment and tools
- If working in the evening, keep the workplace well lit
Slick surfaces can easily cause slips and falls when they are not approached correctly. While the best way to counteract slipping is to eliminate the slick surface, that’s not always an option, so try one or all of these methods:
- Add slip-guards to any rough flooring
- Make non-slip shoes a mandatory part of the work uniform
- Post signage that alerts workers of the slippery surface
Although noise isn’t a physical hazard, it can have major consequences. Excessive, or particularly loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage. Here are ways to prevent the effects of noise hazards:
- Eliminate the source of the loud noise
- Ensure all employees wear appropriate hearing protection
Asbestos, silica, and excessive dust can all cause respiratory issues. While they’re typically found in the drywall of existing buildings, when the buildings are demolished, the toxic dust is released.
To prevent the health damage they can cause, it’s essential that you test for these hazardous toxins before work at any construction site begins. Other ways to avoid the respiratory damage that come with airborne toxins are:
- Wear appropriate mouth and nose protection
- Have the toxins professionally removed before work begins
Get Educated with Construction Safety Courses
While this blog post is an introduction to the top safety hazards in construction, it’s certainly not inclusive, and you need the appropriate education to prevent construction hazards. For a more in-depth look at construction hazards, sign up for one of our construction safety courses today!