The construction industry is one of the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA)’s biggest concerns. Injuries to construction workers top the injury and death list in a single industry sector. Construction deaths account for one in five work-related deaths in USA, and construction workers have a fatal occupational injury rate that is three times higher than other United States injuries.

According to the OSHA, in the construction industry the leading four causes of injury and death are: electrical hazards, fall hazards, struck-by hazards and caught-in-or-under-or-between hazards. These are commonly referred to as the “fatal four”.

The most effective way to keep workers safe is to hold safety training sessions. These online, tutorial, or live sessions give the construction workers the knowledge they need to work safely with these hazards. Outreach training sessions have been proven to be a successful way to reach all construction workers with new and refresher safety courses on the fatal four.

Electrical Hazards

Every construction site has sources of high power. Unless you work directly with electricity, typically, you aren’t even aware of these high power potential killers until you come into contact with them with a ladder or a tool. A tradesman who fails to keep a safe distance from a power source is putting himself in jeopardy.

Work sites should have clearly marked high voltage areas. In addition, there should be ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on all portable tools that involve working outside and damp ground. GFCIs for construction include:

  • A GFCI receptacle can be used in place of a standard receptacle
  • A portable GFCI which, when it is plugged into a standard receptacle, converts a standard receptacle into a GFCI receptacle
  • A GFCI circuit breaker which combines leakage current detection with the function of a circuit breaker

Another source of electricity deaths and injuries is underground cables. That is why it is critical for construction foreman and workers like backhoe operators to contact local power companies before they dig. Before using booms, cranes, and ladders it is paramount that workers check for high-voltage overhead wires with which they could potentially come into contact. Workers are also cautioned to stay at least thirty-three feet away from fallen power lines.

It is important that construction workers who are involved in jobs where they will be working with electricity or in and around high-voltages sources receive adequate training on injury prevention.

Fall Hazards

Falls are the number one hazard on construction sites. Falls from heights and same-level falls result in the highest number of worker injuries and deaths reported annually; injuries and fatalities that are highly preventable. Increased risk of falls can result from:

  • Missing protective devices (such as: bars, safety harness, and guardrails)
  • Unsuitable or poorly maintained fall protection equipment
  • Open, unguarded openings in floors, walls, roofs including skylights in existing roof structures
  • Personal protective equipment is non-existent or not used in the proper way
  • Misused equipment or poorly maintained equipment including: ladders, scaffolds, elevating work platforms or suspended access equipment
  • Poor work habits including: unclear job procedures, poorly or inadequately trained workers, rushed work
  • Messy work sites including uncleared areas, slippery areas, cluttered areas, poor lighting and uneven workspace

Falls can be prevented by:

  • Wearing and using personalfall arrest equipment
  • Installing properly maintained perimeter protection
  • Covering and securing floor openings and clearly labeling floor opening covers
  • Using elevation equipment like ladders and scaffolds properly

It is important that construction workers who are involved in jobs where they will be working with elevated construction sites, are working above ground or are working underneath aerial construction receive adequate training on injury prevention.

Struck by Hazards

Over 25% of injuries and deaths in construction are the result of being struck. Construction workers are in danger of being hit by road vehicles, construction vehicles, construction materials, flying debris as well as hazardous substances. Hard hats, safety goggles, steel-toed boots and others safety equipment properly worn helps to mitigate the risk of being injured when struck by a moving object. Working in only designated areas and blocking off work areas with barriers also cuts down on the incidence of death or injury due to being struck.

Workers—particularly in road construction—have a higher incidence of being struck by traffic or construction vehicles. Though, construction workers in all areas of construction need to be vigilant about flying objects, falling objects, slipping and swinging objects and ground or floor objects. Working below elevated construction sites significantly increases the risk of “struck by” injuries. Proper storage, handling and use of equipment is important in preventing “struck by” injuries. Being alert to objects around you, wearing high visibility clothing and staying out from between vehicles prevents struck by injuries.

Caught In/between Hazards

A caught inside, under or in between hazard occurs when all or part of the construction worker’s body is squeezed, pinched or crushed in or between machinery. Prevention of “in between” hazards is improved by workers never entering an unprotected trench or excavation exceeding five feet without an adequate protective system. Workers should also ensure trenches or excavations are sloped, shored up, benched or trenched with a shield system. Workers should also operate machines in such a manner so that they avoid getting caught in machinery. Clothing that does not catch in machinery, protective gloves, hard hats, steel-toed shoes and protective safety equipment also minimize risk of “in between” injuries.

It is important that construction workers who are involved in jobs where they will be working with excavations, trenches, or machinery where they can be caught inside, under, or in between equipment receive adequate training on injury prevention.

The construction industry by its very nature has a high incidence of work-related injury or death. Worker protection laws have greater increased worker safety and decreased death and injury statistics. In the forty years since the OSHA Act was enacted, workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65 percent. However, far too many preventable injuries and fatalities are still occurring.