The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified four causes of construction accidents that, taken together, account for nearly 60 percent of all construction industry fatalities each year. Collectively known as the Fatal Four, these accidents include the following:
Each year, up to 600 workers suffer fatal injuries as a result of Fatal Four accidents. Workers can avoid injuries by learning the facts about construction’s fatal four, identifying construction site hazards, and following safety protocols. Employers can also provide safety training and take other measures to mitigate job site hazards that lead to Fatal Four accidents.
More than one-third of all construction industry fatalities are caused by falls primarily because of the amount of work performed at elevated heights on a job site. The most common hazards that lead to falls include the following:
It is a known fact that installing perimeter protection and signage near exposed edges and elevator shafts can reduce the risk of fall accidents. The main types of barriers include the following:
Ladders should be carefully placed, and workers should refrain from leaning while on the ladder, working from the top rung, or carrying heavy objects while climbing. In general, additional fall protection is not required when working from a portable ladder. Above 10 feet, however, workers should be on scaffolds, not ladders.
It is also a proven fact that scaffolds are dangerous when overloaded or loaded improperly. Workers on scaffolds can mitigate the danger of falling by using a personal fall arrest system (PFAS), which can evenly distribute the force of a fall should a mishap occur. The central component is a body harness, which has a connecting device that is securely attached to an anchorage point. Workers must secure themselves to the anchorage point before using the PFAS.
Each year, nearly 10 percent of all construction accident fatalities occur when workers are struck by objects or pieces of equipment. Struck-by accidents can result in serious head, neck, and limb injuries. Oftentimes, victims of struck-by accidents are not participating in the work that caused the object to be in motion. This can make it difficult for workers to avoid struck-by accidents caused by others. However, knowing how these accidents occur and making sure all workers on the site follow safety measures can help everyone avoid these accidents. Struck by hazards include the following:
When performing tasks at elevated locations, workers can protect their colleagues below by installing toe boards on scaffolding edges, and by using lanyards to secure tools. Barricading work zones where flying debris may be present is another way to reduce the risks of struck-by accidents.
Cranes present additional struck-by hazards when they are used to lift and swing heavy loads. The crane itself may strike workers, or the loads can come loose. In April 2019, a construction worker in Manhattan was killed by a falling crane counterweight. Employers can protect workers from these hazards by implementing the following:
Following all relevant OSHA standards can help prevent struck-by accidents caused by cranes and other machinery.
Electrocutions kill nearly 100 construction workers each year. Workers who survive electrocution often suffer burns, shock, limb amputations, and disfigurement. While electricians suffer the most electrocutions per year, non-electrical workers also risk electrocution from downed wires. Workers can identify electrocution hazards by continually looking for the presence of power sources as they traverse the job site and inspect the condition of tools, equipment, and wires that consume or conduct electricity. Common electrocution hazards include the following:
Because water conducts electricity, workers should exercise extra caution when working in wet conditions. To protect against electrocution hazards, OSHA recommends the following:
Workers should always identify all locations of overhead and underground power sources before starting work. Anyone who uses either portable or plug-connected electrical equipment should be trained on how to inspect the equipment before use.
More than 50 construction workers die annually as a result of becoming compressed between equipment, between equipment and a wall, or getting crushed in collapsing trenches or structures. Trenches present one of the greatest caught in/between hazards. Trench cave-ins are more likely to cause worker fatalities than any other type of excavation-related accident. Unfortunately, trenching and excavation incidents are on the rise, according to OSHA.
A trench deeper than five feet should have protective systems in place to help prevent cave-ins. OSHA lists the following types of protective systems that may be used in combination:
Professional engineers who understand soil classifications should design protective systems for trenches deeper than 20 feet. Trenches should be inspected at the start of each shift and after heavy rainstorms. At all times, heavy equipment should be kept away from trench edges. To avoid other types of caught in/between accidents, workers should never position themselves between moving and fixed objects, such as between a forklift and a wall, even if the forklift is moving slowly. Caught in/between accidents happen quickly without warning.
Construction workers can follow these guidelines to prevent accidents and stay safe in the workplace:
Employers should make sure workers are equipped with adequate safety gear, including fall protection systems. Guardrails and toe boards should be installed around every elevated open edge. Make it a priority to educate workers about job hazards; it is important to provide safety training and signage in a language that all workers can understand.
Construction workers must confront safety hazards every time they enter a job site. Being aware of job site hazards can help workers avoid injury, however, accidents still happen. If you were injured on a construction site, the New Jersey construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can help. Call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.