In 2016, out of 4,693 job fatalities in the private sector, 991 deaths occurred in the construction industry and over half of these deaths can be attributed to what the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls the “Fatal Four.” With proper training and equipment, the deadliest causes of injuries to construction workers could be eliminated saving 631 lives each year.
According to OSHA, falls accounted for 38.7 percent of construction deaths in 2016. Construction workers are in danger of falling because of unstable working surfaces, unsafe use of ladders or scaffolding, and failure to use or improper use of fall protection equipment. In 2017, failure to provide fall protection was the top frequently cited standard throughout the construction industry. Employers have a duty to ensure that fall-prevention equipment, including restraint systems, guard rails, and safety nets are in place for employees who work more than six feet above a surface. All ladders and scaffolds should meet safety standards. Employees should be trained in the use of personal protective equipment, including:
- Non-skid work boots
- Tool lanyards
- Hard hats
#2. Struck by Objects
Getting struck by an object was responsible for 9.4 percent of construction deaths in 2016. Many of these incidents involved vehicle hazards, including the misuse of cranes and forklifts. Proper training in how to safely use this equipment, providing clear vehicle routes and avoiding being positioned between moving and fixed objects can help prevent construction injuries and fatalities.
Fatal injuries from electrocutions accounted for 8.3 percent of 2016 construction deaths. Training to avoid electrical hazards with ladders and scaffolds is needed for employees. It is important to locate and identify utilities, including overhead power lines before any work is started. Employees should be equipped with portable tools that feature double insulated wiring and are grounded. Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) should be used whenever possible.
Accounting for 7.3 percent 2016 construction fatalities, severe and fatal injuries occur when workers are caught-in or between equipment or objects. Many of these incidents are caused by the collapse of construction site trenches. When trenches are used, all employees should be trained in how to protect themselves. It is important that trenches that are five feet or deeper have trench wall support and adequate safety measures are used. Trenches should be inspected by a qualified person for safety.