Reduce the “Big Four” worker injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 20 percent of employee fatalities happen in the construction industry. 57 percent of those are the result of the so-called “Big Four”: falls (35 percent), electrocution (10 percent), struck-by incidents (8 percent), and caught-in and -between injuries (4 percent).

Reduce these hazards by training workers on proper safety protocols and providing them with the appropriate safety supplies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises that concentrating on the situations that are most likely to harm workers, can also help to lower the number of injuries and fatalities at construction sites.

Falls

According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Most falls on the worksite can happen for a number of reasons, including unprotected openings allowing workers to fall, scaffolding that may not be built properly, and ladders that can be misused.

Many construction sites have wall openings, floor holes or unprotected sides and edges. Whenever an employee is in danger of a fall of 6 feet or more in the construction industry use at least one of the following systems: personal fall arrest, guardrails, or safety nets. Hazards may also be avoided by:

• Surveying the site before working and continuing to examine the site and safety equipment throughout the construction
• Constructing floor hole covers so they can hold twice the combined weight of workers, equipment, and materials

Due to the limited space on a scaffold, working with heavy materials and equipment can be difficult. Without fall protection this becomes dangerous. Build all scaffolds to manufacturer’s instructions and set up guardrails on all open sides and ends. Avoid hazards by supplying safe access to platforms, and when a scaffold is 6 feet or more above a surface install a guardrail system, in addition to a personal fall arrest system.

Unguarded protruding steel bars can be found at construction sites and stumbling or falling onto one can cause serious injury. Guard all protruding ends with rebar caps or wooden troughs, or bend the rebar so exposed ends are no longer upright, and provide fall protection at any height above exposed rebar.

Employees are put at risk when ladders are not safely positioned. While on a ladder it may move or slip, or a worker could lose their balance while getting on or off. Position the ladder so side rails extend at least 3 feet above landing, lock side rails at the top, and use a grab device when extension is not possible. Avoid other hazards by obeying weight limits, inspecting each ladder for cracks or broken parts before each use, and use only ladders that comply with OSHA standards.

Electrocution

Electricity is essential to modern life, and in a variety of ways can become a hazard. OSHA requires that employees do not work near any part of an electrical power circuit unless protected. The most frequent causes of electrical injury contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, path to ground missing, and misuse of equipment.

Overhead and buried lines carry extremely high voltage. Although fatal electrocution is the main risk, burns and falls are also dangers. Watch for power line indicators and post warning signs when using equipment that can conduct power. Avoid hazards by:

• Contacting utility companies for buried power line locations
• Staying a minimum of 10 feet away from overhead power lines
• Assuming overhead lines are energized
• Cutting power to guarding, and insulating lines when working near them
• Using non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines

Construction work can be rough and normal use of electrical equipment causes wear and tear that can result in exposed wires and short-circuits. These can create a ground-fault, sending a current through the body, causing shock, burns, or even death. To avoid this hazard, follow recommended test procedures, and clearly mark and use doubleinsulated tools Also, visually inspect all electrical equipment before use and apply a warning tag or lockout device to any defective tools.

Even if the power supply is properly grounded, it can become hazardous in extreme conditions and through rough treatment or regular wear and tear. Ground all power supply systems, electrical circuits, and electrical equipment, make frequent inspections to ensure the path to ground is continuous, and visually inspect all electrical equipment and extension cords before each use.

When electrical equipment is not used in the way it was designed, safety features can become undependable. This may damage equipment and cause employee injury. Only use equipment that meets OSHA standards and do not modify cords or use them incorrectly.

Struck-by

75 percent of struck-by fatalities involve heavy equipment, including trucks and cranes. Vehicles, falling or flying objects, and constructing masonry walls cause the most struck-by injuries.

Being struck by swinging backhoes or moving vehicles, and crushed under overturned vehicles are just two ways employees are at risk when safety practices are not observed. Employees are encouraged to check vehicles daily to make sure all parts and accessories are in safe operating condition. Avoid struck-by accidents by:

• Making sure area is clear before using dumping or lifting devices, or driving a vehicle in reverse • Lowering blades, buckets, and dump bodies when not in use
• Ensuring workers are always visible. Supply them with traffic safety supplies such as high-visibility clothing with reflective material.

There is a risk from falling objects when under any type of work being performed. Inspect tools, cranes, and hoists to ensure good working condition. Avoid working directly under loads beings moved and promote personal safety by wearing hard hats, safety goggles, and face shields.

During construction, concrete and masonry walls often need shoring to support huge loads until structures can stand alone, making them especially dangerous to employees. When lifting equipment is used to position slabs and walls, or shoring is used, there are increased risks of struck-by injuries. Take measures to protect workers during this kind of construction by preventing unrolled wire mesh from recoiling, restrict the area to authorized personnel, avoid loading lifts above their capacity, and only place construction loads on a structure when a qualified person indicates it can support it.

Caught-in or -between

Workers often run the risk of being trapped by materials and equipment. When heavy equipment is at rest near an immovable object such as a concrete structure or rock side hill, workers should avoid walking between them. Being pinned, compressed, or crushed between a moving object such as a semi-trailer and a dock wall or a truck frame and the truck’s hydraulic bed, are dangers on most worksites. In addition to training, help avoid this type of injury by turning off vehicles before doing maintenance or repair work, lock out power sources when possible, and ensure reverse alarms are functioning properly on all vehicles.

Workers are also at risk of being pulled into or caught-in machinery when guards have been disabled or removed. Clothing being caught in running equipment can quickly result in the loss of a limb, strangulation, or death. Install machine guards and put lockout tagout procedures in place to help prevent injuries and protect employees.

Many caught-in or caught-between injuries happen while working in trenches. Use protective systems or equipment while working in trenches to prevent cave-ins and ensure worker safety. Always evaluate soil conditions and inspect the site daily and following rainstorms. If the excavation is more than five feet deep, engineering precautions such as bracing and shoring must be in place before employees can work.

According to the American Census Bureau, there was approximately $787 billion worth of construction in September 2011. With many workers involved in these projects, it is always important for employers to keep workers safe. By following the proper protocols for preventing the “Big Four” injuries and providing employees with safety equipment such as fall protection, hard hats, work gloves and safety signs employers can offer sound protection against these major workplace injury offenders.

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