The “Fatal 4” Construction Accidents and How to Avoid Them
Construction-related occupations are some of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. So dangerous, in fact, that on-site construction and extraction workers accounted for 34.8 fatalities per every 100,000 people in 2014. This high fatality rate led Time Magazine to place construction first-line supervisors and laborers 11th and 12th, respectively, on the publication’s most recent list of “The Most Dangerous Jobs in America.”
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are four leading causes of death among construction workers. These four hazards are sometimes called the “Fatal 4” and together, they accounted for 57% of construction fatalities in 2012.
While construction is a demanding and dangerous occupation by nature, there are steps you and your colleagues can take to ensure safety on the job and avoid these common and deadly accidents.
In 2012, 36% of all workplace fatalities resulted from falls, which was the most of any hazard by far. However, OSHA reports that many of these deaths might have been avoided had the proper infrastructure been in place and had the proper safety information been communicated and disseminated. They suggest that construction supervisors and employees plan ahead, provide proper and safe equipment, and train all employees how to use this equipment the right way.
As policy, OSHA requires fall protection at 6-foot elevation intervals in the construction industry. Furthermore, fall protection needs to be put in place regardless of elevation whenever working above dangerous machinery or materials. Finally, guard rails, toe boards, and hole covers should be placed and marked whenever there is a floor hole or elevated platform or runway.
“Struck-by” hazards, in which a person is struck by a falling or moving object, accounted for 10% of all workplace fatalities in 2012 but again, many of the instances could have been avoided with proper and thorough instruction, planning, and oversight. According to OSHA, workers are most commonly hit by large machinery or vehicles, falling objects or debris, or walls that are under construction.
When operating large machinery or vehicles, employees should always wear their seatbelt and ensure that the machine is in good working order before they begin use. Also, vehicles should be equipped with reverse alarms, and anyone operating them should have the proper training and licensure to do so. Lastly, many construction job sites take place in heavy traffic areas, so all employees should be sure to carefully mark off work zones whenever they find themselves in this position. Use traffic signs, barricades, and flaggers wherever necessary.
To avoid injuries or deaths resulting from falling objects or debris, use netting and debris nets when working on scaffolds and always wear protective gear whenever necessary, including hard hats, safety goggles, and face shields. Employees should never work below a suspended load, and they should keep all materials at least six feet away from floor openings and 10 feet clear of short walls.
Finally, to keep all employees safe when working near incomplete concrete or masonry walls, do not place loads on these structures. Additionally, all unstable structures should be properly shored until more permanent stabilizing elements have been installed. Never overload a lifting device, and be sure that there are automatic safeguards in place in case the device’s lifting mechanism is compromised.
In 2012, 9% of all construction workers who suffered a workplace fatality died in an accident related to an electrical hazard. In order to make sure that this never happens to you or any employees in your workplace, it’s important that you understand proper procedure when confronted with some of the most common electrical hazards on a construction site:
- Improper grounding: Be absolutely sure that all unnecessary current is eliminated, and never remove the ground pin.
- Exposed lines: If you see exposed electrical components, tell your supervisor immediately and then guard and protect all temporary lighting onsite.
- Overloaded circuits: Always use circuit breakers to regulate voltage. Rather than using power strips or surge protectors, use 3-way extensions with GFCIs.
- Active power lines: Never use tools requiring electrical current in wet conditions. Keep all tools and equipment at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
- Defective wiring: Do not use tools that have damaged, defective, or exposed wiring or insulation. Never hang tools over nails or other sharp objects that could threaten the integrity of a tools’ wiring.
- Damaged tools and equipment: If there is ever any question about the functionality of a given tool, err on the side of caution and assume it is damaged until you can verify otherwise.
Each of the hazards listed above could lead to serious injury or death, so it’s important to recognize each one and act appropriately should the need arise.
Caught In–Between Hazards
2% of all construction fatalities in 2012 resulted from an employee becoming caught between an immovable structure and a destructive force. These incidents are known as “caught in-between” hazards. In almost every instance, these accidents are sudden and unexpected but as with most potential jobsite hazards, planning and awareness are paramount in avoiding them and remaining safe.
A cave-in is one example of a potential caught in-between accident. Cave-ins most frequently occur when you are working among or near loose soil or other unstable ground conditions. Such conditions often occur near train tracks or airports where there is a great deal of vibration, and they are also common in wet conditions and in environments which experienced significant climate change within a short period of time (e.g., rapid freezing or melting). Therefore, it’s important to always remain aware of climate conditions and recent or potentially upcoming precipitation before beginning work in an area that is potentially unstable, especially if you will be using heavy machinery.
To establish proper oversight, OSHA requires that a “competent person” be onsite during excavations. This individual must be capable of analyzing and assessing the structural foundation of the site and is required to do so at the start of every workday. In addition, this overseer is granted the authority to rectify any conditions that he or she deems unstable or unfit for work.
In order to prevent being caught in a hazardous situation, always be sure to properly guard heavy or dangerous machinery by following “lock-out/tag-out” protocol and remaining safely outside of barricades that are put in place to protect from swinging objects, such as cranes or forklifts. Finally, always block the wheels of unused vehicles, lower or block the blades of heavy machinery and other tools, and wear a seatbelt whenever operating any type of vehicle, onsite or otherwise.
The Law Offices of George A. Malliaros
Even employees who follow approved safety procedures to the letter can find themselves injured due to other people’s negligence. If you’ve been injured in a construction accident, the Law Offices of George A. Malliaros is here to help. Throughout his extensive and distinguished career, attorney George A. Malliaros has successfully represented hundreds of individuals who have been injured in construction-related incidents while on the job. In addition to Mr. Malliaros’ familiarity with this practice area, our firm offers a contingent fee policy that ensures that our clients will not pay any fees or expenses unless and until we are able to successfully resolve their claim.
Please contact us today by calling (800) 856-4449 or complete this brief form to receive a free consultation.
Johnson, D. (2016, May 13). The most dangerous jobs in America. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4326676/dangerous-jobs-america/
Smith, S. (2014, April 17). Fatal four: Safety in the construction industry. EHS Today. Retrieved from http://ehstoday.com/construction/fatal-four-safety-construction-industry-infographic