The construction industry continues to increase safety measures, however, there is no doubt that it is a dangerous occupation. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), out of the 3,929 worker fatalities reported in 2013, in private industry, a total of 796 or 20.3 percent of them were in construction. With one out of five worker deaths in construction, this makes construction industry fatalities higher than the national average for all industries combined. OSHA recommends employers and/or managers audit the eight major areas of the construction zone in an effort to prevent construction accidents.
8 Construction Accident Prevention Areas
Accident prevention efforts should include, but not be limited to the following eight key areas:
- Elevation Changes
- Water, Snow or Ice
- Cords and Hoses
- Ladders and Stairways
- Safety Gear and Protocol
Elevation changes are a major cause of trips and falls on construction sites. Make elevation changes in work surfaces safer by:
- Providing good grading at the point of change.
- Identifying uneven areas in walking areas with signs and paint.
- Taping down all joints on temporary floor coverings to prevent tripping.
- Reporting and repairing damaged walking surfaces immediately.
- Instructing employees on ways to help with identification of safety issues.
Water, Snow or Ice
Cleaning up water and ice on floors is one of the best ways to prevent construction accidents. Workers should receive the training and tools necessary to address ice and water problems, including:
- Clean up water and ice on floors immediately.
- Make signage available nearby to warn all employees.
- Place squeegees and other cleaning supplies near all known or suspected problem areas.
- Instruct all workers to check for and clean off rainwater, ice and snow before working.
Proper lighting is one of the easiest ways to prevent safety issues:
- Train the crew to always use proper lighting at the work site.
- Address any lighting issues before work begins.
- Check portable light stands for damage, like frayed wiring.
- Maintain temporary lighting at all times.
- Managers should put protocol and procedures into place to address lighting needs before the project begins.
Everyone on the job site should be on the constant lookout for debris. Some other safety strategies include:
- Remove any and all debris on floors and construction areas.
- Provide easy access to all crew members to clear and simple on-site scrap removal instructions.
- Never stage piping, or any other rolling material in walkways or areas where workers have to traverse.
Cords and Hoses
Taking the time to properly place hoses and cords can go a long way in reducing accidents on the site. Here are some more safety tips:
- Run hoses and cords overhead, if possible.
- Tape loose cords and hoses to walls, boards or support beams to keep them safely out of the way.
- Place hoses and cords away from hazards, such as metallic objects or wet areas.
- Never thread hoses and cords through ladders or run them along stairways, even if you have secured them, which adds an inherent safety risk.
- Instruct workers on how they could trip, fall or become tangled in loose hoses and cords, as well as how to repair and address issues immediately.
Approximately 2.3 million construction workers work on scaffolds regularly. Erecting them and using them correctly could eliminate an about 50 fatalities and 4,500 injuries every year. Here are some of the basic guidelines for scaffolding:
- Build it on solid footing. It must be sound and strong enough to support its own weight plus four times the maximum intended load without moving or shifting. Scaffolds should be at least 10 feet from any power line.
- Provide proper support. Avoid the use of any unsteady objects to support scaffolding or wood planks, such as boxes, barrels, concrete blocks or bricks.
- Supervision is required. Managers should oversee the erecting, moving, dismantling or altering of scaffolding.
- Training is key. Employees must be educated about fall prevention and the hazards of using diagonal braces to stop a fall.
- Check, check and check again. All workers should keep an eye out for and report any problems. Managers should inspect all parts of scaffolding and rigging on a regular basis, checking for damaged or weakened brackets, braces, trusses, ladders and screw legs before each shift.
- Add as many safety measures as possible. Equip scaffolding with midrails, guardrails and toeboards. Add heat protection for any rope used for suspension scaffolding. Provide access via stairwells and ladders.
Ladders and Stairways
Ladders and stairs are major causes of construction accidents leading to serious injury. OSHA reports approximately 36 deaths and 24,882 injuries occur each year due to falls from ladders and / or stairways on construction sites. Almost half of these types of injuries required workers to take time from their jobs. Aside from training workers to use the right ladder for the job, some strategies for reducing stair and ladder accidents include:
- Visually inspecting each ladder for structural damage, such as
- Bent or broken side rails
- Missing or damaged cleats, rungs or steps
- Broken or missing safety features
- Dirt, grease or other debris that may cause falls or slips
- Broken or missing parts that are hidden by paint or stickers, with the exception of warning labels.
- Ensure ladders are long enough to reach the work area safely and securely.
- Destroy damaged ladders or tag them with a “Do Not Use” sign to warn others.
- Avoid loading ladders above the manufacturer’s rated capacity, including the weight of the worker, equipment and tools.
- Avoid using any metal ladders or ladders with metallic parts close to overhead power lines or electrical work.
Safety Gear and Protocol
The statistics may show that the top cause of worker deaths on construction sites were fall accidents, but the other three top causes OSHA listed as part of their “Fatal Four” for worker deaths were:
- Being struck by an object.
- Getting caught in-between objects or equipment.
Each of the factors above is avoidable by training workers on proper safety protocol. Wearing proper protection, such as hardhats, goggles and boots are crucial. Pulling back long hair and removing hazardous jewelry, like rings, can help, too. OSHA suggests that wiping out the Fatal Four could save 468 workers lives in America every year, and that starts with safety education.
Construction Accident Prevention Through Training
In addition to conducting safety checks, supervisors and managers need to provide clear guidance to employees and subcontractors on how to prevent accidents, as well as what to do when a safety issue arises. This means putting the proper controls and safety procedures in place before the construction project begins.
To achieve that goal, OSHA provides several resources, including:
- Construction Worker Safety Series: A compilation of tips and safety advice specific to the construction industry.
- Construction Standards and Regulations: Comprehensive legal rules and regulations for safety on construction sites.
- Worker Rights: Provides resources to help workers know their rights regarding safety on the job site.
The highest return on investment for preventing accidents is crew-wide training, regular supervisor inspections and using the proper equipment that is in optimal working order. When all workers on a construction site are informed and aware of safety, everyone benefits. If you feel the construction site that you work on doesn’t include these safety measures, or if you have been injured on a construction job, you should seek help and discuss your situation with a professional who can advise you of your options.