Construction Site Safety: Importance of Identifying Risks and Educating Workers

A construction worker was injured on the roof of the World War II Museum in the New Orleans.

According to WGNO, the injured worker was rescued from the third floor of the WWII Museum construction site. The 32-year-old worker sustained several injuries and was immediately transported to a trauma center.

Thankfully this worker was rescued in time, but that’s not always the case across the United States — especially when it comes to construction.

“Activity in the construction field is currently very high and historically the fatality rate has always been higher in construction, when compared to all industry,” said Steve Hawkins, assistant commissioner of Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Tennessee’s division.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips, and falls are the second leading cause of accidental workplace fatalities behind vehicles. But handling heavy machinery and metals, toxic chemicals, and other workplace concerns can be just as dangerous. The construction equipment industry is expected to increase 12% from 2016 to 2026. The construction sector has always been dangerous, but as new machines continue to arise, there are going to be more concerns when it comes to workplace safety.

“When we take a sector like construction, it is not just about injuries that are occurring in the sector but are we building a new culture within the construction industry that is actually looking at safety,” said Christina Hoy, vice president of corporate business information and analytics for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).

Here are some of the most common causes for construction injuries and fatalities that employees and site managers alike can benefit from: (this data comes from the OSHA’s 2015 findings)

  1. Slips, Trips, and Falls — Of the 937 total construction worker deaths that occurred in 2015, 364 of them were attributed by slips, trips, and falls (38.8%).
  2. Struck by objects — Falling objects resulted in 90 workplace fatalities in 2015 (9.6%) and can occur at any time in just about any consecution site.
  3. Electrocutions — Another common cause of workplace injuries and fatalities involved electrocutions. In 2015, 81 electrocution-related construction seats occurred (8.6%).
  4. Caught in between objects — Across the construction industry, there are all kinds of dangerous and heavy pieces of equipment that can potentially lead to serious injury or death. Four of the most common metals used throughout the construction sector are carbon steel, copper, stainless steel, and aluminum — these and other metals can be deadly if caught between.

According to Knox News, during the first three months of 2018, there were 87 construction-related fatalities across the U.S. that were reported to OSHA.

Workplace safety officials are hoping to change the way industries as a whole think about injury prevention, as well to focus much more on vigorously promoting safety.

“One fatality is too many and they are preventable,” added Edward Taylor, executive director of the Construction Industry Research and Policy Center at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business. “There is a need to change the way the industry thinks about safety. Too many times, safety is an ‘add-on’ and not integral to the process of project planning.”

In addition to simply focusing more on efficient strategies to promote a safer work culture, here are some tips for preventing (or at least attempting to prevent) construction fatalities and serious injuries:

  • Immediately assess and evaluate near-hits — There is a sense of relief after a close encounter with a dangerous workplace situation, but it’s important to actually take a look at what contributed to the near fatal situation. Workers and managers alike should be encouraged to bring forward things they’ve noticed pertaining to workplace incidents.
  • Perform detailed risk assessment — Every construction business (and general business, for that matter) should develop a thorough life-threatening risk program. Conducting pre-task risk assessments can help better prepare each worker for all kinds of potentially dangerous construction projects.
  • Focus on proper on boarding — On boarding is an essential part of any job, but it’s even more imperative in the construction sector because of the dangerous involved. If a new employee isn’t properly trained on how to handle heavy machinery, certain metals, or work at extreme heights, there could be catastrophic results. Make sure you’re training every single new worker that comes onto your team.
  • Observe workers while on the job — Observing new employees is a must but you have to remember to keep an eye on experienced members of your team as well. Over time, some consecution workers can lose their attentiveness and could be much more at risk for injury than they were in the past. So make sure you’re frequently observing your construction crews, and make sure to inform them about the risks involved with each project.

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