The construction industry is certainly not shy of work-related hazards and remains one of the most dangerous occupational fields. Among the countless sources of hazards in this industry, there are four in particular that result in the highest percentage of fatalities. Referred to as the Fatal Four by OSHA, the following hazards are responsible for 60% of all deaths in the construction industry: falls, being struck by an object, electrocutions, and caught-in/between hazards. Here, we’ll look at each of the four hazards and discuss how companies can mitigate their risks.
Falls remain the top hazard among the Fatal Four, causing over a third of construction-related deaths each year. Falls most commonly occur when employees are exposed to heights of 6 ft or greater, defected working platforms, and edges or cracks on walking surfaces. To mitigate the risk of falls, construction companies should host annual training for fall hazard detection and prevention as well as provide workers with fall protective devices, such as guardrails and harnesses, and proper PPE when working on elevated surfaces. It is also advised for companies to install toe bars and warning lines on guardrail systems for work areas on roofs or floor edges.
Struck-by hazards make up just over 11% of construction worker deaths. Examples of struck-by hazard events include blunt force trauma to the head by falling objects like bricks or being struck by a moving vehicle on a highway. Workers in construction can lower their risk of being affected by struck-by hazards by using traffic signs and barricades, wearing warning clothing, avoiding working underneath suspended loads, and always using PPE.
Electrocution is ranked the third most dangerous hazard within the construction industry and causes just under 9% of construction worker deaths each year. Examples of common electrocution-related hazards include being exposed to faulty electrical outlets or old wiring and having metal come into contact with power lines. Some of the best ways to prevent these types of incidents include using lockout and tagout (LOTO) techniques, ensuring that all equipment is properly grounded or insulated, and consistently checking tools and cords for damage.
Caught-in/between hazards comprise over 5% of construction worker deaths annually. As the name suggests, these hazards involve workers becoming stuck in or between two objects at a work site. This type of hazard can include events like cave-ins, having a body part crushed by operating equipment, or being pinned in between two machines such as an asphalt paving spreader and a pavement roller. To prevent this type of hazard, companies must use properly guarded machinery and ensure that any load carried by equipment is secure. Employees can protect themselves by not wearing loose clothing or jewelry, maintaining a safe distance between two apparatuses at all times, and never working outside of a designated protection system.