Construction site accidents can be devastating, but they’re often preventable. The problem is that not all construction company owners and foremen are diligent about preventing accidents and not all construction workers know of the risks they face on the job. Read on to find out about six of the most common types of construction site accidents and how they can be prevented to learn about this important subject.
Falls from Height
Falls from height are the most common cause of construction worker fatalities, so it’s important for those working a construction job to follow site managers’ instructions regarding the use of fall protection gear. Employers are required to provide fall protection gear and safety training to their workers, but contractors themselves are still responsible for using the gear as instructed.
Common causes of fatal or severely injurious falls include poor scaffolding construction, lack of toe rails and handrails around open platforms, and failure to use proper personal protective gear. If a construction company fails to provide adequate fall protection gear for its employees, the company may be held liable for injuries that occur due to falls from height. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces strict regulations for employers, including the provision of required personal protective equipment and training about job hazards but not all employers follow OSHA guidelines.
Both construction workers and passers-by are susceptible to injury by falling objects. This easily avoidable type of construction site accident is surprisingly common. Injuries from falling objects range from minor cuts and bruises to serious brain trauma and even death, with falling objects accounting for around 10% of construction worker fatalities each year.
To avoid serious injuries from falling objects, workers should always wear protective gear, including helmets. Workers should also maintain proper communication with site managers and other workers at all times and should secure all tools and hardware any time they are working at height.
To prevent injuries to passers-by, construction site managers should always ensure that they secure their worksites. They can accomplish this using temporary fencing. Anyone who enters the work area should be required to wear a helmet to minimize injury if an object falls from nearby scaffolding or other high-up work areas.
OSHA lists electrocutions as one of its Focus Four Hazards, or common sources of construction worker fatalities for a reason. Electrocution deaths account for nearly 10% of workplace fatalities and construction workers are over four times more likely to be electrocuted on the job than workers in other industries.
Preventing electrocution is largely a matter of ensuring safe work practices and providing proper training for all employees. Construction site managers should always use ground-fault circuit interrupters when installing temporary electric power on sites and should be aware of any overhead or underground power lines. They should also use lock-out/tag-out practices to de-energize circuits before servicing equipment and ensure that all electrical equipment is either double insulated or grounded.
Workers can prevent electrocution by inspecting tools before use and consistently checking power cords and extension cords for signs of damage. They should always disconnect power tools and machines before inspecting or repairing them and should avoid placing metal objects near live electrical circuits.
Accidents that occur when a worker becomes trapped or crushed between two objects account for over 70 construction industry deaths annually. This category of personal injuries includes injuries caused by equipment rollovers and unguarded machines.
The best way to avoid caught-between accidents is to ensure that workers never leave heavy equipment or machinery unattended on construction sites and that only authorized workers are operating heavy machinery. Construction site managers should use lock-out/tag-out procedures when inspecting, maintaining, or repairing machines. Employers should also provide training for workers to ensure that they are familiar with any potential crush points and know to avoid wearing loose clothing, jewelry, or long hair that could get caught in moving parts.
Tripping accidents typically cause less severe injuries than the four categories of accidents described above, but they’re extremely common. Trips and falls can occur when workers trip over objects left on the ground like cables, blocks, or tools or fall into holes dug at construction sites.
Construction site managers can minimize tripping accidents by ensuring that their work sites are clear of debris and all tools are put away properly after workers are finished using them. Keep the work site neat and orderly and make a point of placing signs in hazardous locations so that workers know to avoid them. Workers themselves should help keep construction sites clear of tripping hazards by cleaning up debris as it is created and putting away tools after use.
Many construction jobs require excavation or trenching. This creates an additional safety hazard for contractors working in the trenches. When trenches cave in, workers can be buried in thousands of pounds of soil, causing serious injuries and fatalities.
Site managers can avoid trenching accidents by taking a few simple preventative measures. These include moving excavated soil at least two feet away from trenches or removing it from the site, restricting access to the area to personnel who are working on the trenches, and keeping equipment away from the site to remove the potential for blunt-force trauma during cave-ins.
Workers can ensure their safety by avoiding trenches that have not been properly reinforced and routinely inspected, ensuring that they have accounted for all underground utilities for and evacuating the trench immediately if rainwater accumulates at the bottom. All workers should receive dedicated training on trench safety and should report unsafe conditions to supervisors immediately.
The Bottom Line
Construction sites can be dangerous places. In most cases, construction company owners and site managers are responsible for providing employees with a safe work environment. They must provide adequate training, safety gear, and signage to alert workers of potential dangers. Site managers who fail to take these essential steps may be held liable for injuries to workers or passers-by that occur because of their negligence.
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