According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) which was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,679 individuals lost their lives to work-related injuries in 2014. Alarmingly, that is a 2 percent increase in work-related fatalities from the previous year. The study also revealed that injuries in the high-risk fields of construction and extraction occupations accounted for 885 of those fatalities in 2014- a 5 percent increase from 2013.
In an ever-improving city like Chicago, there is a continuous need for construction and extraction. With everything from road development and repair to the renovation or erection of buildings, construction and extraction work sites are everywhere throughout the city. Unfortunately, safety issues in construction areas can prove to be extremely hazardous, and even deadly for those employed in the field.
With roughly 20 percent of all private industry fatalities occurring in the construction industry, statistics reveal how serious the risk is for construction workers who simply show up for work. In an effort to help familiarize construction workers and companies with the risks involved on construction sites and in order to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified what is referred to as the “fatal four”. These are the four work site incidents that caused approximately 58.1 percent of construction worker deaths in 2014 and are most likely to lead to fatality for construction workers. According to OSHA, the fatal four are:
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- Falls: Falls accounted for approximately 40 percent of fatality injuries in construction settings in 2014. While falls can occur in many different situations, those that happen from a significant height account for the highest percentage of deadly accidents. It is important to remember, however, that trips and falls on a level surface can be deadly as well. In order to help prevent fatal falls, and those that cause significant injuries from occurring, workers should always use the proper fall protection equipment and be aware of their surroundings continually. Employers can help reduce the risk of fall accidents by providing (and requiring the use of) safety equipment and making sure to keep pathways clear of debris.
- Electrocutions: Approximately 8.5 percent of work-related fatality accidents in construction settings were due to electrocutions in 2014. While many electrocutions occur during the installation, removal, or modification of electrical wiring is being performed, it is important to note that electrocutions can happen in other situations as well. While OSHA has set strict regulations to help reduce the risk of electrocutions, employers and employees alike often fail to comply. Once again, employees should always use the proper personal protective equipment and be aware of their surroundings to help reduce their risk. Additionally, employers should properly educate their workers about electrical safety and do their best to ensure that hazards are kept to a minimum.
- Being Struck by an Object: Accounting for an estimated 8.4 percent of construction site fatalities, being struck by an object is a more common concern than many workers realize. These incidents range from overhead objects falling and striking workers to workers losing control of tools or equipment and fatally striking other employees. By maintaining awareness of their surroundings and always complying with safety regulations, workers can help reduce their risk for injuries and fatalities. Employers should also be sure that their employees have sufficient training and experience when using tools or equipment that could result in injuries.
- Becoming Caught In Between Objects: Studies reveal that 1.4 percent of construction site accidents that resulted in fatalities were caused by the worker becoming stuck in between two objects. Any time a worker is near moving parts or machinery, he or she can become caught and injured. Some of the more common incidents include workers being lodged between objects like building equipment, forklifts, and other machinery, and cars. Using extreme caution when working near moving parts or machinery can significantly reduce the number of accidents for construction workers.
While there are numerous other instances that can cause injuries and fatalities in construction settings, these four are at the highest risk for causing significant injuries or even death. Such injuries are not just difficult for the victim to endure but can be devastating for family members and loved ones as well. Although there is no amount of money that can replace a loved one’s life, financial compensation for things like lost wages, medical expenses, and funeral costs (when needed) can relieve some of the burdens caused by serious workplace accidents and help individuals and their families better cope with their loss. Even when an injury or fatality occurs in a construction set that is in complete compliance with OSHA regulations and the employer is not at fault for the accident, victims are still eligible to receive benefits when they file a claim for compensation.