According to OSHA, 60 percent of construction worker deaths every year can be attributed to OSHA’s Fatal Four: falls, electrical, struck-by, and caught-in hazards. OSHA offers training modules to reduce injuries on construction sites as part of the Focus Four Fatal Injuries campaign. Nonetheless, every year OSHA gives citations for violations of safety standards.
- Falls account for approximately 36.5% of the fatalities in the construction industry.
- Struck-by incidents caused an estimated 10.1% of deaths in the construction industry.
- Electrocutions led to approximately 8.6% of deaths in construction.
- Caught-in or Caught-between: Employees caught in or between machines, devices or tools caused nearly 2.5% of deaths in the construction industry.
Falls, caused by slips or trips, are one of the leading causes of injuries in the workplace and the most common reason for injuries in the construction industry. These falls may cause fatal injuries and are a top reason for emergency visits related to construction site accidents. The three physical factors involved in slips, trips, and falls are friction, momentum, and gravity. Friction is the resistance between objects. Momentum is affected by the speed and mass of an object, and gravity is the force exerted on an object by the Earth. Falls happen whenever you are thrown off balance.
Falls account for more workplace fatalities than any other reason. Slips may occur when there is a loss of balance after there is too little friction between your feet and the surface you are walking on or working on. Workplace slips are often caused by a lack of traction. Slips are also more likely to occur when there are weather hazards such as ice and snow, or wet surfaces caused by spills. Trips occur when you are moving with enough momentum and your foot hits an object, throwing you off balance. Trips are more likely to occur in the workplace when walkways are not clear, such as debris on a walking surface. There are a number of safety hazards that contribute to falls, slips, and trips, including:
- Lack of guardrails along walkways
- Views obstructed by a walking surface that cluttered
- Inadequate lighting
- Cables or wires that are not properly covered and/or cleared
- Debris in the walkway
- Slippery walkways may be wet because of weather hazards, such as rain, snow, or ice. A walkway may be slippery due to oil or similar substances.
- A walking surface that has dissimilar traction (loss of traction is one of the leading causes of workplace slips)
- Stairwells and steps that do not have visible edges or adequate lighting
- unanchored mats or rugs on walking surfaces
Though an employer may work to reduce unsafe conditions such as these, it still occurs at sites. If you have been involved in an on-site construction accident that results in these injuries, contact an attorney about your options.
Electrocutions are commonly cited violations in the construction industry. OSHA states that workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.
Workers in the construction industry face a significant risk of electrocution, which OSHA defines electrocution as:
“Electrocution results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy. An electrical hazard can be defined as a serious workplace hazard that exposes workers to the following: burns, electrocution, shock, arc flash/arc blast, fire, and/or explosions.”
Not only do they frequently handle heavy machinery that requires electrical power or tools to operate, but they are also subject to electrical hazards in the workplace. According to the American Society of Safety Professionals, the primary sources of electrocution are overhead power lines, the use of defective equipment or tools, contact with energized sources, and the improper use of extension and flexible cords.
Electrical hazards may expose workers to the following events:
OSHA notes the distinction between “struck-by” and “caught-in” or “caught-between,” which may be similar in some respects. The difference is explained by determining the following: Was it the impact of the object alone that caused the injury? When only the impact causes the injury then it is categorized as a “struck” type of event. An injury that occurs as a result of crushing injuries between objects, the incident is described as “caught.”
Further, OSHA categorizes struck-by hazards into four different types:
- Struck-by flying object
- Struck-by falling object
- Struck-by swinging object
- Struck-by rolling object
Struck-by fatalities in construction may involve heavy equipment such as trucks or cranes. Construction sites often involve workers working on various levels. In some cases, workers may operate cranes to maneuver beams or similar objects from one level to another. Falling tools, construction materials may also lead to struck-by injuries. When beams or objects drop on workers, catastrophic injuries may occur. While following safety precautions when on-site and safety equipment such as helmets and safety glasses could help minimize the severity of some construction injuries, some situations still leave the work without adequate protection from struck-by hazards.
In 2019, an incident involved two workers working on the I-4 Ultimate project in Orlando, Florida. A worker was killed after he was struck by a 7,000-pound metal beam. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 1 in 10 construction worker fatalities are from work zone injuries. These fatal struck-by injuries often happen when a motor vehicle intrudes into a work zone or when construction vehicles and heavy equipment operate within a work zone. About half of the fatal struck-by injuries were caused by a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle. In comparison to nonfatal injuries, about half of the non-work zone fatalities involve a falling object or equipment (51%) and 33% involve a powered vehicle, not in transport.
Caught-In/Caught-Between events occur when a worker is caught, compressed, or pinched between two or more objects. Most construction sites will involve moving heavy slabs and objects from one location to the other. Trenches may also collapse, causing a worker to get caught between a movable object and a stationary one. In Florida, a trench collapse at I-95 on February 4, 2018, led to two deaths. Two employees of Archer Western working on a pipe inside of a trench. The entire concrete barrier wall, approximately 121 feet long, collapsed. The trench subsequently gave way, killing two workers who were in the trench. Injuries sustained from these construction accidents are often serious if not fatal.
Events that should be classified as Caught include:
- Cave-ins (trenching)
- Being pulled into or caught in machinery and equipment (this includes strangulation as the result of clothing caught in running machinery and equipment)
- Being compressed or crushed between rolling, sliding, or shifting objects such as semi-trailers and a dock wall, or between a truck frame and a hydraulic bed that is lowering
Construction injuries that involve a personal injury claim may be complicated, it is best to consult with a personal injury attorney after a construction accident about your options. Contact Clayton Trial Lawyers for assistance.