The 4 Most Common Workplace Injuries in Construction and How to Prevent Them
The construction industry is an inherently dangerous industry. In 2020, injury and illness rates in construction were 24 percent higher than they were across all other industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What causes these injuries? According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OHSA), it can be narrowed down to four main hazards: falls, electrocution, struck by, and caught in/between.
Today we’ll explore which of these fatal four are the most common and the several ways your business can prevent them.
Falls are one of the most common hazards to plague construction workers. In 2020, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reported that more than 1 in 5 workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry, with over one-third of these deaths being the result of falls, slips, and trips.
Most falls occurring on construction sites are the result of uneven surfaces, improper mounting and dismounting from equipment, improper ladder use, and lack of fall-protection equipment.
To prevent your employees from falling and sustaining an injury while at work, ensure the following:
- Work areas are clean, free of clutter and well-lit.
- Employees use appropriate fall equipment, including guardrails, personal fall arrest systems, and safety nets.
- Employees wear footwear with sufficient traction.
- Crew members follow all safety regulations for ladders and are using three points of contact when mounting and dismounting equipment.
Electrocutions may not be the most common among the fatal four, but they still pose a serious threat to work zones across North America. In 2021 electrocution accounted for approximately 8 percent of worker deaths. While this number may seem small compared to the 37 percent that died in the same year as a result of falls, it still represents a dangerous condition that is afflicting the livelihood of workers.
There are several electrocution risks that exist on construction sites, including exposed wiring and wet conditions near outlets, contact with overhead power lines and energized conductors or circuit parts, poorly maintained power tools and cords and lightning strikes.
To protect your employees, you should follow the requirements put forth by OSHA. These include prioritizing proper design, using only electrical equipment that has been properly installed and maintained, using electrical protective devices when necessary, and using lockout procedures when de-energizing equipment. Additionally, you should always make sure that your crew members are wearing all required PPE when working near or with electricity.
Struck by is a wide-encompassing term that includes a whole host of perils. Although there are different types, these hazards exist any time a worker could be struck by an object.
Common struck-by hazards include:
- Struck-by falling objects: materials being moved overhead may expose workers to falling objects. Workers should always maintain a safe distance from suspended loads and store materials properly.
- Struck-by flying objects: power tools and activities requiring workers to push, pull or pry can create flying object hazards.
- Struck-by swinging/slipping objects: crew members should secure all loads and lift them evenly to prevent them from slipping and never work under loads as they’re being lifted.
- Struck-by objects on the ground level: Heavy equipment, distracted and unruly motorists, as well as moving materials, can create serious struck-by risks.
The above struck-by injuries can be fatal, and even when workers are not severely injured, it can lead to them taking several days off work to recover. According to the Center For Construction Research And Training (CPWR), occupational struck-by incidents caused 150 deaths and 14,000 nonfatal construction sector injuries in 2020. This totalled $1.4 billion in workers’ compensation for non-fatal claims with more than 5 days away from work.
A large percentage of fatal (48 percent) and nonfatal (20 percent) struck-by injuries in construction are transportation injuries. These workplace injuries can be prevented with the proper deployment of barriers, intrusion alarms to protect workers from passing vehicles, improved traffic enforcement in work zones, and North America Traffic’s temporary traffic signals.
In addition, you should also:
- Follow recommendations from Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
- Develop and follow a traffic control plan.
- Verify that a backup alarm is installed and functioning on all mobile equipment.
- Develop and provide written safety programs and training.
- Use portable rumble strips in major intersections and pedestrian crossing areas during planned events that will draw large crowds.
- Use PPE and prioritize team communication.
Caught-in and caught-between accidents occur when a worker is caught, pinched, crushed, or compressed between two or more objects or part of an object. In 2020 alone, these hazards were the cause of 142 worker deaths. Caught-in and caught-between are also one of the leading causes of nonfatal accidents in the workplace. This construction hazard is known to manifest itself in a multitude of ways. However, some of the common scenarios include getting pulled into unguarded machinery, caught between equipment and a fixed object, as well as trapped in a masonry wall, trench, or excavation collapse.
Preventing such accidents is most effective when construction workers and their employers follow the following best practices:
- Employees are trained in the safe operation of equipment, tools, PPE, and scaffolding.
- Crew members know to never enter an unprotected trench or excavation 5 feet or deeper without adequate protective systems.
- Employees are sufficiently trained on the hazards associated with their job and what they should do in the event that they get caught in or between something while performing their duties.
Protect yourself from accidents at the workplace with NAT’s Solutions!
Protect yourself, workers, and other road users with North America Traffic’s leading traffic control solutions. With our Portable Traffic Signals and Automated Flagger Assistance Devices, you can keep your valued traffic control person away from the harms of moving traffic. Each device sports bright LED lights that provide increased visibility, allowing motorists plenty of time to react and slow down.
And with add-ons like intrusion alarms to signal your job site has been breached and video monitoring to secure your equipment and workers, you can personalize each solution to your work site’s needs.
Contact us today to learn more about our traffic control solutions and how they can prevent common workplace injuries.