Every day, around 6.5 million people go to work on construction sites throughout America according to OSHA. This particular industry, because of the nature of the work, has a very high rate of injuries compared to other industries.
From falls to electrical shock, these injuries have the potential to have long-lasting consequences, and the rate of fatal injury is much higher in construction than in other industries. Construction workers and construction companies need to take the proper steps to prevent accidents. Here are some strategies to employ to help limit the risk of injury on the job.
Recognize the “Big Four” Construction Site Hazards
While many aspects of a construction site are dangerous, four specific areas carry the highest risk of serious injury. These are:
- Being struck by something
- Being caught in or between items
Learning how to stay safe in in respect to these hazards is crucial to creating a safe construction site and preventing injury to yourself as a worker.
Be Aware of Fall Hazards
When a construction worker falls, the chances of injury and death are extremely high. Many of these falls occur when a worker falls from scaffolding, which causes around 50 fatalities a year. Workers can protect themselves by inspecting scaffolding before climbing to ensure it is properly set up and on solid footing. Scaffolding needs to be accessed using ladders or stairways only. Finally, workers must learn what the maximum intended load is, and only take up that amount when using the scaffolding.
Scaffolding is just one area where a fall hazard can occur. Workers must be aware of fall hazards related to climbing ladders and stairs. Workers need to watch for structural damage that can contribute to a fall, and always ensure they are using the proper ladder for the task. When working on a tall building or aerial lift, workers must use safety nets, fall arrest systems, or other safety mechanisms to catch them if they do fall.
For construction industry leaders, insisting on safety is critical here. All stairways, ladders, and elevated surfaces must be cleaned of debris, grease, or water to prevent slippage. Construction site managers must inspect elevated working surfaces and ladders regularly. They also must insist on the use of safety systems that prevent falls.
Don’t forget to consider the added risk that comes with weather issues. In the winter when ice and snow are on the site, or during a rainy period, surfaces become slicker, and added slickness increases the fall risk. Using products to add traction and ensuring ice is melted before climbing onto high surfaces is crucial during these times.
Use Heavy Machinery Safely
Being struck by an object or getting caught in or between an object typically occurs when a worker is working around heavy machinery. Workers can be struck overhead by a load on a crane, crushed under a piece of equipment, or injured in rollover and turnover accidents. In fact, OSHA estimates that 95,000 employees are injured every year operating powered trucks on the worksite.
To prevent these injuries, construction crews need to ensure that only those who are trained to use a piece of equipment do so. Also, hardhats and other safety equipment must be worn at all times. Workers should only use the equipment as it was intended to be used, and they should avoid operating it near trenches or ditches whenever possible. Equipment needs to be inspected to ensure the reverse signal alarm is working and can be heard above the noise of the job site. A strict speed limit needs to be enforced on the job site as well, and operators of machinery need to wear seatbelts.
Prevent Electrocution Risk
Finally, electrocution is a risk that all must take measures to avoid. Prior to starting a job, the job site manager needs to locate and mark all utility lines, both underground and overhead. Portable equipment must only be used when grounded or double insulated, and equipment should be powered in a circuit that uses ground-fault circuit interrupters. Electrical hazards on ladders, platforms, and scaffolding must be identified so works can be alert to them.
In spite of these warnings, construction sites, even those that are managed safely, are at high risk for accidents, and construction accidents are life-changing, with thousands of dollars of medical bills and the potential to lose gainful employment.