The hazards lurking around construction sites make them among the most dangerous places to work in the country. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 21 percent of workplace deaths in the United States are construction related--that's one in every five, making construction work the highest risk occupation for fatal injuries.
These construction site fatalities are easily preventable. Following OSHA recommended workplace safety measures would save 630+ lives every year.
"Fatal Four" at construction sites
OSHA refers to the top four types of construction-related accidents as the "Fatal Four." They include falls, being struck by an object, electrocution, and being caught in or between objects.
- Falls are the leading cause of construction worker deaths and also account for more than 100,000 injuries yearly. Falls can be from heights or caused by tripping or slipping. Falls can be prevented when proper workplace safety equipment and standards are followed like using guard rails with toe guards, proper safety harnesses and nets and hand rails.
- Being struck by objects includes being hit by objects that are falling, rolling or swinging. Workers are often unaware of these types of dangers until it's too late to react. Employees must be aware of their surroundings, including what's above them, and avoid standing below suspended equipment or loads. Ensuring that equipment is in proper working order and using protective guards can help prevent these types of accidents.
- Electrocution is the third leading cause of construction worker fatalities. Electrical hazards also cause severe burns and nerve damage. To prevent electrocution, hazards in the workplace should be identified and clearly labeled. Continued safety training is necessary, as is the use of personal protective equipment. It's also important that tools and equipment have safety guards in place and are powered off when not in use and during repairs.
- Being caught in or between objects is the fourth leading cause of worker death. These types of accidents happen when a worker's body is caught, crushed, squeezed or pulled into a machine and can happen when a building or materials collapse or with the use of unguarded machinery. Employees should stay aware of their surroundings and never position themselves between vehicles or in front of a moveable object. Wearing high visibility, close-fitting clothing, pulling hair back and leaving jewelry at home can also help prevent these types of accidents.
Construction sites should be an environment where safety is paramount and strict safety protocols are in place. By following OSHA's workplace regulations, construction worker deaths can be prevented. Compliance with safety protocols, like the use of proper safety gear such as hard hats, steel-toed boots and safety glasses and continued workplace training can help protect workers and keep them safe from harm.