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How to Prevent OSHA’s Fatal Four Construction Accidents

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), certain construction accidents cause death at a higher rate than other injuries. The Fatal Four accidents, as the agency dubbed them, include falls, struck-by object accidents, electrocutions, and caught-in/between injuries. According to OSHA, these accidents caused over 64% of construction-related deaths in 2015. However, certain safety regulations and practices can help construction sites prevent these accidents from happening.

Preventing Falls

Fall injuries account for almost one-third of construction deaths in the United States. All sites must have certain fall protection mechanisms in place, but some forego safety requirements, leading to increased worker risk. On construction sites, workers can fall for a number of reasons.

  • Portable ladder collapse
  • Unguarded steel rebar
  • Unprotected edges on high places
  • Floor holes
  • Wall openings

These accidents can lead to spinal cord damage, paralysis, brain trauma, broken bones, and other injuries. Construction sites can prevent fall accidents and save worker lives by implementing the following changes.

  • Train workers about fall safety in a language they understand
  • Provide required personal protective equipment
  • Provide guard rails and toe-boards around any elevated platforms and floors, as well as heavy machinery
  • Include safety harnesses, railing, and nets wherever required

Preventing Struck-by-Object Accidents

Workers can face unexpected hazards from falling objects, flying debris, swaying loads, and rolling equipment and vehicles. Struck-by-object accidents are common causes of death on construction sites, catching workers off guard so that they do not have time to react. Workers can suffer from broken bones, head trauma, spinal cord injury, brain damage, and crushing injuries as the result of struck-by accidents.

Construction sites can prevent struck-by-object accidents by implementing the following changes.

  • Require employees to wear goggles, safety glasses, and face shields while using power tools
  • Ensure all protective guards are in good condition
  • Warn workers about working under suspended loads and near equipment and vehicles while in use
  • Tell workers to avoid areas where work is happening above and encourage them to always wear a hard hat
  • Use toe boards, screens, and debris nets to secure tools and materials
  • Tell workers to always verify with heavy equipment operators of their presence in a work area

Preventing Electrocutions

Electrocution causes over 300 deaths and 4,000 injuries annually on construction sites. These injuries are very serious, leading to severe burns, internal injuries, traumatic brain injury, kidney failure, and neurological damages. Workers can suffer electrocution injuries due to any of the following conditions.

  • Improper use of electrical equipment
  • Faulty power cords and equipment
  • Inadequate grounding
  • Power lines

While OSHA requires all workers to have adequate protection when working near electrical power circuits, some workplaces forego this requirement. Construction sites can reduce electrocution deaths by implementing the following safety standards.

  • Provide proper safety training to all employees
  • Provide proper personal protective equipment for all employees
  • Require all employees to wear personal protective equipment and stress its importance
  • Ensure that all personal protective equipment has an arc rating equal to or greater than calculated energy on the site

Preventing Caught-In/Between Injuries

Caught-in and between accidents are the fourth cause of construction-related deaths. In these accidents, two or more objects on the site catch, crush, or squeeze a worker. As a result, workers can suffer from crushing injuries, broken bones, brain and head trauma, limb mangling, and other severe injuries. Vehicles, equipment, and stationary objects can all cause these injuries.

Construction sites can avoid caught-in and between injuries on the job by implementing the following safety precautions.

  • Require workers to fully shut down equipment prior to repairs and inspections
  • Encourage workers to wear close-fitting clothes, pull back long hair into a bun, and not to wear jewelry on the job
  • Require workers to chock wheels on equipment so they do not move or roll unexpectedly
  • Stress the importance of staying focused on the job
  • Tell employees to avoid walking into the path of people carrying objects that block their eyesight
  • Familiarize employees with equipment and identify pinch, pull-in, wrap, sheer, and crush points
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