Written by Jason Damm, MS, CWB, ASHM, GSP | Health and Safety Coordinator
There is an inherent risk construction workers face every day at work. Construction is a dangerous field full of hazards. These risks also apply to those of us who work on or adjacent to active construction sites. Despite the wide-ranging hazards faced on a construction site, four of these types of hazards are responsible for most fatalities in the construction industry.
These four types of hazards are falls, struck-by, caught-in-between, and electrocution.
Falls in Construction
In 2020, there were 351 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities (BLS data). OSHA requires employees to be tied off during work at six (6) feet of height or greater if fall prevention measures are not present, but there are many companies that do not protect their workers from falls. Most employees who died due to a fall did not have any fall protection or the fall protection was inadequate. If you are working on a project that has fall concerns, please consult with your Health & Safety personnel.
Electrocutions in Construction
Electrocutions followed falls in the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. There are multiple causes of electrocution fatalities. The common types of electrocution fatalities include direct contact with an energized powerline, direct contact with energized equipment, contact between a boom and energized powerline, damaged equipment, and indirect contact with an energized powerline.
Struck-by incidents are responsible for almost the same number of fatalities in the construction industry as electrocutions each year. There are many struck-by hazards on every construction site that can severely injure or kill workers on any given day. Common struck-by incidents include struck-by moving equipment, struck-by falling objects, and struck-by flying debris.
The last of the fatal four hazards in the construction industry is caught in/between incidents. OSHA defines caught-in/between hazards as injuries resulting from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of an object. Two different examples of caught-in/between incidents include excavation cave-ins and being pulled into moving equipment such as a conveyor.
This was just a quick overview and some examples of the fatal four hazards in the construction industry. It is important that workers
- Understand that these types of hazards are responsible for the majority of injuries and fatalities on construction sites, and
- Plan and remain cognizant of surroundings while working on them.
What are some safety measures we can take to eliminate or reduce the chance of injury related to the hazard?
- Always remain vigilant when working on an active site.
- Keep in communication with your team, site foremen, and any people you may be working near/around.
- Always have the appropriate PPE for the job. On an active construction site, this may include:
- Reflective vest (possibly other reflective garments)
- Hard hat
- Site-specific training and documentation
- Safety eyewear
- Steel toe boots
- Be aware and on guard for electrical hazards. Never attempt to “fiddle” with something you are not qualified to “fiddle” with.
Use your resources. If you do not know the best way to proceed, reassess. If needed, Stop Work for another, safer, time.