Construction work is a dangerous business and the chances of being seriously injured on the job are higher than that of any other profession. As a matter of fact, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 20% of all private industry, worker deaths in 2019 was in construction — that translates to over 1000 fatalities in a single year. On top of that, more than 200,000 nonfatal injuries occurred in the same year.
While there are many causes of construction accidents, four types consistently top the list each year. Being more aware of these hazards can help minimize injury and improve safety conditions for all those working at these sites.
So, what are the main culprits? According to The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the four primary causes of construction site accidents include:
- Falls, slips and trips
- Struck by an object
- Caught in-between objects
Since these dangers are responsible for the majority of construction worker fatalities, let’s take a closer look at what they usually involve and how to lessen the chances of experiencing them.
Construction accidents from falls, slips and trips
Whether it’s a few feet or from a great height, construction site falls can lead to serious bodily injury. The majority of falls stem from uneven surfaces, improper use of a ladder, incorrect mounting and dismounting from equipment, or failure to use the proper fall protection equipment. As for slip and trip accidents, spills, leaks and misplaced objects are most often to blame.
Fortunately, these types of accidents are often preventable by using securements like safety harnesses and belay systems. However, without the appropriate safety gear, falls, slips and trips frequently result in construction workers suffering broken bones, spinal cord injuries (SCIs), paralysis, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), and even death. Here are a few ways to make falls, slips and trips less likely to take place.
- Keep work areas well lit and free of clutter
- Make sure ladders are steady and properly positioned on even ground
- Use three points of contact when mounting and dismounting equipment
- Be sure scaffolding is properly constructing and has guardrails
- Protect wall openings and floor holes
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) – safety harness and line, nets, stair rails, and handrails
- Wear shoes/boots with good traction
Construction accidents from being struck by an object
OSHA describes this kind of accident as the impact between a person and an object or piece of construction equipment. The most dangerous types of accidents in this category involve being hit by some type of motor vehicle such as a forklift, crane or truck. However, smaller equipment that falls from overhead can also lead to serious injury. The keys to avoiding injuries from being struck by an object include:
- Wearing a hardhat and other effective PPE gear
- Marking or blocking off hazardous areas
- Keeping tools and materials neatly organized and safely stored
- Avoiding close proximity to suspended or lifted loads
- Maintaining a clear, unobstructed view when driving a vehicle in all directions
- Ensuring a reverse indicator such as a backup alarm is working properly on all vehicles
Construction accidents from electrocution
While burns are the most frequent consequence of electrocution, other serious injuries can be attributed to this danger as well, including nerve damage and cardiac arrest. It’s also important to note that it’s not just electricians who are exposed to potential electrocution. Truth is, there are many instances when construction workers come into contact with electricity sources. To minimize electrocution accidents and their severity, OSHA guidelines emphasize proper design and use of electrical equipment, covering requirements, and using electrical protective devices. Here are a few other things to consider for greater safety when it comes to electricity:
- Stay clear of power lines
- Make sure optimal ground-fault protection (grounding) is in place
- De-energize apparatus and implement proper lockout measures
- Understand all equipment being used and the potential for electrical shock.
Construction accidents from being caught in-between objects
Also known as “trenching” this common type of construction accident can result in severe injury and in many cases death. As the name suggests, these accidents take place when a construction worker is caught between objects. Examples of this would include being pinned against a wall by a vehicle, being pulled into heavy machinery, or being crushed by moving objects. Staying vigilant of the worksite surroundings is crucial to preventing this type of accident. Other actions to lessen the chances of getting caught between objects include:
- Wearing personal attire appropriate for the workplace setting
- Keeping clothes, hair and accessories close to body to avoid getting caught in machinery
- Trying not to position yourself between immovable objects and heavy equipment
- Keeping your extremities clear of moving objects
Identifying these common causes of construction accidents and steps to minimize their occurrence are the best ways for guarding against injury. However, nothing is foolproof, and injuries are unfortunately part of the job. If you have experienced any injuries from these common types of construction accidents, it’s in your best interest to immediately consult with an experienced construction accident lawyer. Along with helping to pay your medical bills, you may be entitled to additional compensation that you’ll need as you recover.