The construction industry accounts for more than 20% of all worker-related fatalities in the United States, and injury and illness rates in construction were 24% higher than they were across all industries on average in 2020, hence elevating the significance of safety in this sector.
Construction safety measures are procedures geared toward protecting construction sites and workers from hazards ranging from minor injuries to fatalities. Even though there has been a noticeable decline in accidents involving the construction industry since the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, certain dangers may be avoided by adhering to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Additionally, work activities are becoming more feasible and safe because of technological advancements, including using safer tools and equipment like fall protection harnesses, netting, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protocols.
This blog outlines the four types of incidents that happen most frequently on construction sites and the safety procedures workers must follow to prevent them.
Fatal Four Construction Hazards
The construction industry is exposed to risks, hazards, and dangers despite advances in construction safety equipment, technology, and training for workers. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies four leading causes of fatalities in the construction industry, commonly called the “Fatal Four.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Fatal Four” were responsible for nearly three out of five (59%) construction worker fatalities. These “Fatal Four” types of accidents include:
- Falls: According to OSHA, a fall hazard is anything at a worksite that could cause a worker to lose balance or bodily support and result in a fall. Some of the most common falls involve falls due to collapsing of equipment or structures, falls through existing openings or surfaces, falls from materials that are stacked or piled, falls from roofs, falls from structural steel, and falls from stationary vehicles.
- Struck-By: According to OSHA, “Struck” is defined as injuries produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment. These objects include flying debris, loose hanging loads, swinging or rolling loads, falling equipment, and beams on the construction site. Falling objects pose a serious threat to workers on the construction site. It can result in a risk ranging from concussion to severe health hazards.
- Caught-In/Between: According to OSHA, Caught-In/Between hazards are injuries resulting from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or parts of an object. It includes being crushed or caught in a collapsing structure, material, or equipment mass and being compressed by objects or equipment.
- Electrocution: According to OSHA, Electrocution results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy. The significant electrocution hazards include contact with overhead power lines, contact with energized sources, and improper use of extension or flexible cords.
How to Reduce these Fatalities
Fatal construction injuries are estimated to cost the United States $5 billion yearly in health care, lost income, reduced quality of life for family members, and lost production. As most of the hazards at a construction site are already identified thus, we can plan and prepare a safety protocol to ensure the worksites are safe for workers. Below are some of the techniques that help in reducing the fatalities:
Preventing Falls: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), falls claim more than one-third of fatalities in construction, accounting for about 40 percent of all work-related fatal falls in the United States. To prevent fatalities from fall hazards, OSHA recommends the following techniques:
- Using fall protective equipment: It includes equipment like guardrails, safety net systems, and personal fall arrest systems. Guardrails help stop a fall in the first place, whereas safety net systems are designed to catch a worker in case of a fall. Personal fall arrest systems comprise equipment like anchorage, harness, and connectors intended to break a fall.
- Safe ladder use: Workers should be able to choose the correct mode of equipment to move to heights. Using the right ladder or knowing when to use a lift instead of scaffolding are vital in reducing unnecessary falls.
- Training: Workers should get specialized training before working on scaffolds, lifts, or ladders. Training helps workers learn how to use and inspect fall protection equipment, choose the correct ladder for the task, and identify skylights. It also includes explaining specific rules like the famous “three points of contact” rule that states three limbs should always be in contact with whatever a worker is climbing or standing on, improving stability and reducing risk.
Preventing fatalities from being Struck-By: OSHA provides specific guidelines for workers to reduce fatalities due to struck by; these include:
- Avoiding struck by due to equipment: Workers should maintain a distance from heavy equipment when it’s operating, be aware of lifted loads as well as unbalanced loads, and never work under suspended loads. Workers should confirm their visibility and have the heavy machine operator’s acknowledgment of it.
- Using Personal Protective Equipment: It includes using eye and face protection like safety glasses and wearing head protection hats in an environment with a potential risk of falling objects.
Protecting workers from being Caught-In/Between hazards: Workers could adopt the following essential techniques to protect themselves from being Caught-In/Between:
- Guarding Machines: It is vital to guard machine parts like belts, shafts, chains, or flywheels while operating. Workers should avoid wearing loose clothing, or jewelry that can be caught in moving parts. Ensuring machines are de-energized to avoid accidentally being stated.
- Protecting workers working at excavating sites: Ensure that workers enter or exit a trench or excavation only by using a ladder, stairway, or properly designed ramp placed within the protected area of the trench. While working in trenches, workers should adopt techniques like sloping, where the trench should be dug at a safe angle, benching uses a series of steps that approximate a safe sloping angle and shoring is a technique where mechanical or wooden structures are used to support the sides of an excavation.
Preventing electrocution hazards: An awareness among workers regarding the lethality of electrocution hazards needs to be increased. Other than maintaining a safe distance from overhead power lines, the essential techniques to reduce fatalities due to electrocution are:
- Using Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI): GFCI is designed to protect people from severe and sometimes fatal electrical shock. A GFCI is intended to safeguard the worker by cutting the length of an electrical shock by detecting ground faults and interrupting the flow of electricity.
- Inspecting cords and tools: Extension cords may have damaged insulation that could cause damage to workers at the worksite. Before using an extension cord, workers must check it for cuts or abrasions. Ensuring cords are away from heat, oil, and sharp edges, using double-insulated tools, and using gloves and appropriate footwear are some of the techniques recommended by OSHA.
- Follow Lockout/Tagout procedures: When working on or close to electrical circuits and equipment, Lockout/Tagout is a crucial safety precaution that shields employees from harm. The Lockout/Tagout procedure includes identifying all sources of electrical energy, disabling backup energy sources, identifying all shut-offs, shutting off energy sources and locking switch gear in the OFF position, testing equipment circuitry to ensure they are de-energized, and applying a lock or tag to alert.
Safety standards have decreased accidents at the construction site, but this has also made it harder to find workers with the necessary certifications. To address this and ensure that our construction activity is risk-free, iQuasar LLC, a Civil Engineering staffing and support services organization, has been offering companies qualified workers that not only maintain work site safety standards but also increase productivity.