What Are the “Fatal Four” in the Construction Industry?

four construction worker helmets

On construction sites, it’s difficult not to spot something that could be a hazard for workers on the job. From heavy machinery to moving objects and working from great heights, construction workers undoubtedly work in some of the most dangerous conditions in the U.S.

There are, however, certain hazards that are more common than others. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the “fatal four” hazards contribute to 57% of all fatalities in the construction industry and result in about 545 fatalities each year.

The silver lining in this is that many of these situations can be prevented when employers and workers take the right steps to improve safety. Here’s what you need to know about each one of the fatal four and what can be done to prevent them.

Falls (36%)

Falls are, by far, the number one cause of fatal accidents on construction sites. Construction workers spend much of their jobs at great heights from ladders, scaffolds, or roofs. One simple misstep can lead to a fatal fall to the ground below.

Some of the most common causes of falls include:

  • Unprotected sides or holes
  • Lack of proper guardrails
  • Failing to wear proper Personal Fall Arrest (PFA) systems
  • Failing to give workers the proper PFA systems
  • Improper training

Incorporating all OSHA fall protection requirements is crucial to preventing such events. This includes alerting workers of fall hazards, providing adequate training, providing proper PFA systems, and teaching workers how to identify fall hazards before work begins.

Struck by Objects (10%)

A struck-by hazard is considered anything that causes injury or death by forcible coming into contact with someone. There are four main ways that this occurs on a construction site:

  • Flying objects
  • Swinging objects
  • Falling objects
  • Rolling objects

Sadly, nearly all of these events are entirely preventable and are caused by a lack of proper supervision or a lack of training in the use of equipment or heavy machinery. For instance, these accidents can happen when companies fail to maintain equipment or workers fail to:

  • Use parking brakes on vehicles and heavy machinery
  • Use reversing vehicle alarms
  • Fail to keep a proper lookout and swing machinery in the wrong direction

Prevention of struck-by hazards starts by ensuring that all workers are given the right tools and training needed to do their jobs safely. Companies should also consistently ensure operators and signal personnel have the requirements needed to fulfill their job.

Electrocutions (8%)

Construction workers face a number of potentially deadly electrocution risks on the job, such as exposed wiring, wet conditions with exposed outlets, and unknown power sources. Such risks can be caused by:

  • Contact with overhead power lines
  • Poorly maintained extension cords
  • Unexpected lighting strikes

Strict adherence to OSHA guidelines regarding electrical safety in the workplace can ultimately be the difference between life and death. Additionally, here are some ways to improve electrical safety for construction workers:

  • Locate and identify all utilities and power sources
  • Look for power lines when operating work
  • Report all exposed, frayed, or damaged electrical wiring right away
  • Maintain a safe distance from power lines

Caught In/Between (2%)

The final of the fatal four hazards involves being caught in or between two objects, such as machines, tools, or other devices. These account for trench collapses, excavation collapses, being pinned between vehicles and other hard surfaces, or being caught in other collapsing structures. Such accidents can happen suddenly and without warning and are often fatal.

To avoid such occurrences on a construction site, always:

  • Use all your senses when working
  • If you’re operating heavy machinery, keep a proper lookout for people who may be in your path
  • Enter trenches with the right protective system in place
  • Ensure you are not positioned between moving and fixed objects

Injured in a Construction Accident?

If you or a loved one was injured on a construction site, you may be entitled to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. This depends on whether you were legally hired as an employee or an independent contractor at the time of your work accident.

However, keep in mind that some employers purposefully classify workers as independent contractors in order to avoid liability and having to pay workers’ comp benefits. Justice Law Office can review your case for free to determine whether your work classification is correct and how to help you pursue the compensation you need to recover.

Contact our Louisville office at (502) 822-2230 to get started today!

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