One of the leading causes of death in the workplace is when a person gets struck-by an object such as some sort of heavy machinery, equipment or vehicle, falling debris or a flying object (e.g. tools and particles). The Center for Construction Research and Training, also known as the CPWR, reports that there are several safety and control measures employers need to take to ensure that every worker is protected from these fatal – and largely preventable – workplace accidents.
Limiting the number of struck-by incidents that occur is critical. The CPWR finds that the risk of struck-by injuries in the construction industry is two-times higher than the risk of individuals in every other industry put together. Data from the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that not only are struck-by incidents one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities, but that they are also the most common cause of non-fatal, unintentional injuries. Many times struck-by accidents can result in permanently disabling injuries, lost time and wages and subsequent medical treatments, physical rehabilitation or even surgical procedures.
From 2011 to 2015, the CPWR noted that the construction industry experienced a total of 804 worker fatalities resulting from struck-by incidents. 52% of the workers were hit by equipment or objects, while the remaining 48% were struck-by vehicles in work zones or in the workplace. The number of fatal struck-by incidents in the workplace appears to be growing: in 2010 there were 121 deaths whereas in 2015 the number jumped to 162. This could be an indication of a dangerous trend for worker safety.
The CPWR’s report highlights some of the most pertinent safety issues for workers, especially because the report details how particular individuals in the workplace are at a higher risk for struck-by accidents. The CPWR found that workers are more likely to experience fatal struck-by accidents in the workplace if they are:
Individuals who work on roads and highways are at a higher risk for struck-by accidents largely as a result of other drivers passing through work zones, although working on or around heavy-duty construction equipment and in improperly maintained workplaces also contribute to the overall risk increase. Although many struck-by accidents happen outside, many injuries and fatalities still happen indoors. A typical example of this is when a forklift operator accidentally backs into another employee due to enforcement, equipment and training failures.
Although being struck-by a vehicle, heavy equipment and falling debris can result in fatal injuries, these types of incidents inflict thousands of serious, non-fatal injuries to workers every year. The CPWR estimates that between 17,000 and 18,000 non-fatal struck-by accidents occur in the construction industry annually. The center also finds that while building materials cause the largest number of non-fatal injuries, other common workplace hazards are:
According to the CPWR, the majority of struck-by incidents are most often preventable by emphasizing employee training, implementing comprehensive safety protocols, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensuring the use of various engineering controls for all machine and equipment use. It is the legal responsibility of all employers to maintain safe workplaces, so identifying struck-by hazards that exist and doing everything possible to limit dangers to workers is part of this obligation.
Because many fatal struck-by accidents happen along road construction zones, the CPWR encourages employers to make sure that all workers wear brightly colored clothing, that every construction vehicle has back-up cameras and that effective dividers have been set up to keep employees a safe distance from the roadway. Enforcing safety measures and precautions in the workplace is also essential, which can include anything from disallowing employees from working under suspended vehicles to requiring substantial training, particularly for heavy-duty tools and equipment.
Whether you’re an employer or an employee, there is always more to learn when it comes to staying safe in the workplace. If you are a worker who has been injured in a struck-by accident that occurred in your workplace or in a road construction zone while you were working, please fill out a contact form or call our firm to speak to a representative directly.
If you were injured at work in a “struck-by” accident, please contact our Philadelphia Workers’ compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.