Steps Employers Could—and Should—Take to Keep Construction Workers Safe
Construction work is inherently dangerous even when employers implement safety practices on the construction site. When they fail to follow the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) safety rules, workers are the ones who pay the price when they suffer catastrophic injuries or deaths in workplace accidents. Unfortunately, this is a huge problem in the construction industry. According to OSHA, 937 construction work were killed in construction accidents in 2015, accounting for 21 percent of all worker fatalities.
The “Fatal Four” accounted for 62 percent of these construction site deaths. These top causes of construction worker fatalities continue to be these types of accidents:
- Falls: the top cause at 38.8 percent of all fatalities
- Struck by object: causing 9.6 percent of all deaths
- Electrocutions: resulting in 8.6 percent of fatalities
- Caught in/between machinery, buildings, equipment, or materials: 7.2 percent of deaths
10 Steps Employers Should Take to Dramatically Decrease Workplace Accidents and Deaths
Sadly, many construction accidents could be prevented if employers followed OSHA guidelines on keeping the workplace safe and other simple safety measures. OSHA estimates that eliminating the causes of the “Fatal Four” deaths would save 602 workers’ lives each year. Some of the steps employers should take to eliminate construction site dangers include:
- Fall protection. When workers must work from a height, they should always wear harnesses or another restraint system. Safety nets and covers should also be utilized to protect workers and objects that could fall. In addition, guardrails and toe boards on all elevated platforms makes working from heights safer.
- Personal protection equipment. All workers should be provided with and required to use personal protection equipment. Basic safety gear like helmets, safety goggles, fall protection equipment, and other safety equipment designed for specific jobs is essential to keeping employees from having an accident and from suffering serious injuries or dying if they do.
- Trenches and excavation sites. Trenches and excavation sites must have proper supports and shields installed to prevent deadly cave-ins that cause tragic deaths. An easily accessible exit should be in place to allow workers to escape if there is an emergency.
- Scaffolding. Scaffolding must be erected on level ground and have solid footing to avoid the risk of it collapsing. Proper materials should always be used, including guardrails, midrails, and toe boards to protect workers who must work on the scaffold. Having a trained employee supervise the erection, moving, or dismantling of a scaffold is another step employers should take to prevent accidents.
- Inspect tools and equipment. Employers should implement a regular schedule of inspection of tools and equipment to ensure that they are in working order and repaired as needed. This reduces the risk of accidents caused by equipment failures, product defects, or workers using the wrong equipment or tools for the job they are doing.
- Chemical hazards. Construction workers work around many hazardous chemicals and toxic substances. Employers must educate workers about the dangers of these hazards and how to work safely with and around them. In addition, warning signs should be posted, and clean-up kits should be readily available near sites where these substances are used or stored.
- Safety bars on vehicles. Many construction workers fall when getting in and out of vehicles and heavy equipment. Installing safety bars and steps can prevent workers from injuring themselves in falls.
- Training. All employees should be trained in the dangers that they face doing their particular jobs and how to avoid them by following safety procedures and using safety equipment designed to protect them.
- Regular meetings. Employers should hold regular meetings on the construction site to remind workers of specific safety issues given the job duties they are performing. When especially dangerous work is being done, a meeting beforehand can help workers be more alert to the potential risks to avoid.
- Planning. Employers should inspect the work site and assess the potential hazards before a construction project is started and at key phases of it. Preventive measures should be identified and implemented when the work begins, and workers should be educated on these safety measures.
Were you injured in an accident at your construction job? Workers’ compensation benefits could help pay your medical bills and replace your income. Start an online chat to schedule a free consultation to learn about your rights under New Jersey workers’ compensation laws.