The Four Most Common Types of Construction Site Fatalities
When you’re working in construction, there’s a certain amount of risk that comes along with it. With all the powerful tools, heavy equipment, electrical wires, and work that involves being high off the ground, its easy to see how much potential there is for construction site accidents to happen. There’s so much that can go wrong and people can easily get hurt when they do. Only 6% of American workers are construction workers, but a large percentage of all workers killed on the job are construction workers.
Out of all 3,929 worker fatalities in the private sector in the year 2013, 796 (20.3%) of those fatalities were construction workers. Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that there are four major causes for deaths of construction workers, known as “the fatal four,” which accounted for 58.7% of all construction worker deaths in 2013. If “the fatal four” could be eliminated, the lives of 468 workers could be saved annually.
The number one cause of construction site deaths is falls, which were responsible for 36.9% of construction worker deaths in 2013. Unstable working surfaces, human error, misuse of fall protective equipment, improperly built scaffolding, and people working on ladders all contribute to the high number of fall accidents. There are many ways to go about preventing fall accidents. When using ladders, inspect them to make sure they are sturdy enough to be used and are tall enough to safely reach the area that is being worked on. Any ladders that need to be repaired or discarded should be clearly marked as unsafe. Scaffolding should be sturdy enough to support its own weight, plus four times its maximum intended load capacity, and not be supported by anything like concrete blocks or boxes. Falls from high levels can be prevented with guardrails, safety nets or body harnesses, or by using elevated platforms to reach high work areas. If floor covers are needed to cover holes in the floor, they need to be able to hold two times the total weight of workers and equipment.
The second most common cause of death to construction workers is being struck by an object (10.3%), which is why it is so important for workers to wear protective hard hats and goggles and for lookouts to be used when heavy machinery is being operated. Electrocutions are the third most common fatality, making up 8.9% of fatalities. Before starting any work on an electrical circuit, make sure power to the circuit is turned off and all groundings are attached. All damaged cords and wires should be replaced immediately and all extension cords need to have grounding plugs. Make sure all overhead electrical systems are clearly identified and be sure ladders, scaffolding, and other elevated devices aren’t used within 10 feet of power lines. When using ladders near power lines, do not use ladders that are not made of metal. Anything that is designed to protect people from coming into contact with electricity absolutely cannot be interfered with or bypassed.
The last of “the fatal four” is people being caught in or between something. This includes getting caught in tools or heavy machinery and being trapped beneath a trench or wall that collapses. Workers need to be given thorough training about how to use equipment safely, know to keep guards in place on machinery that isn’t in use, and be very familiar with the Lock-Out/Tag-Out rule. When trenches or excavations more than five feet deep are involved, proper reinforcements are needed to prevent cave-ins and soil conditions need to be checked daily, particularly after a rainfall.