Construction Site Dangers: Avoiding the Fatal Four Accidents

by Terry Bryant

Construction Dangers

Know your options after sustaining a work injury?

Every year, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) gathers statistics, so it can learn more about how many workers are being hurt on the job. Based on 2014 statistics, we now know that almost one-fifth of all private industry employees lose their lives while working on construction sites.

This means that about 874 of the 4,251 total fatalities that occurred in 2014 involved workers employed on construction sites. We also know that more than one-half of those injuries were caused by what the DOL refers to as “the fatal four” – electrocutions, falls, being struck by falling objects, and getting “caught-in/between” machinery parts and other objects.

All of this data clearly indicates that construction site managers must keep doing a better job protecting all of their workers from serious injuries. After all, it’s currently estimated that about 500 workers’ lives could be saved each year if we can ever eliminate the annual number of “fatal four” injuries.

What Other Statistics Tell Us About Construction Site Dangers

  • Falls still cause far too many deaths. During 2014, the DOL learned that 349 of the total 874 deaths (39.9%) were the result of falls;
  • Electrocutions remain far too common. It’s believed that seventy-four (74) of these deaths (8.5%) occurred in 2014;
  • Too many workers are still being struck by falling objects (usually from one level to another). We now know that 73 construction workers (8.4% of the total) lost their lives due to these types of injuries in 2014;
  • Workers caught-in/between machinery parts and other objects, Twelve people lost their lives (1.4% of the total) in 2014 when they suffered this type of accident.

A close examination of the Top Ten OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards showed that many construction sites are failing to uphold them. (Here’s a copy of that Top Ten List — taken from published Department of Labor statistics.)

  1. Fall protection, construction;
  2. Hazard communication standards;
  3. Scaffolding, general requirements;
  4. Respiratory protection;
  5. Powered industrial truck accidents;
  6. Control of hazardous energy;
  7. Incorrect usage of ladders during construction projects;
  8. Improper electrical wiring – or handling of various components and equipment;
  9. Faulty handling of machinery and use of guards on machines; and
  10. Poor design of electrical systems – and improper handling of industry requirements.

These deaths continue happening, even though thousands of on-site state and federal workplace inspections are completed each year. During 2014, the Department of Labor conducted over 36,000 federal workplace safety inspections. This number is in addition to the more than 47,000 state plan inspections.

Useful Construction Site Safety Tips

  • All employees must be properly tested (or licensed). Likewise, all applicants must provide medical documentation of their current physical fitness for certain types of construction work. When an employer fails to follow these guidelines, they put far too many lives at risk;
  • Work-site managers must keep reviewing all current OSHA/federal and state safety guidelines. This is critical since new workplace dangers are regularly discussed in government publications;
  • Workers deserve the safest equipment available. They must be provided with supported aerial lifts, scaffolds, and safe work platforms. Also, all ladders must be regularly checked to be sure they’re still working properly;
  • Employers should recommend the best construction safety clothing available. Workers need properly-fitting safety helmets, gloves that have proper gripping surfaces, and sunglasses (or equipment goggles) that keep out all dangerous glare from machinery or the sun;
  • Everyone must be properly trained regarding the equipment they’re assigned to use. They must also be told to keep metal ladders away from electrical equipment and nearby power lines;
  • Employees should work in teams. This can prove critical when one person is injured – so the other person can quickly summon help;
  • Every worker must be told about the closest safety area – a place where people gather when storms or sudden accidents occur on site. It’s also best if every worker has a cell phone available – for work purposes only. This can prove very useful when an accident unfolds.

While this list above isn’t intended to be comprehensive, it can help work-site managers cut down on injuries and fatalities.