The “Fatal Four”?By their very nature, most construction jobs are risky occupations. One in five worker deaths in 2014 was in this line of work. Construction sites are often constantly changing environments teeming with heavy machinery, vehicles, noise, electricity, tools, uneven ground, scaffolding, and countless other ways to get hurt. Given that kind of hectic atmosphere, falling may not seem like a frequent peril. However, it is one of the most common causes of construction fatalities. According to OSHA, the top four construction hazards are falls, accidents where a person is struck by an object, accidents where a person is caught in or between a trench/excavation, and electrocutions.
These “Fatal Four” situations were responsible for more than half of the worker deaths in construction in 2014 and 40 percent of these deaths (349 workers) were due to falls.
How Often Do Worker Injuries Happen?Adding in workers from other industries, a total of 660 people lost their lives in falls at work from various heights, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 545 cases where the height of the fall was known, nearly two out of every three were falls from 20 feet or less. Despite these alarming rates of fatalities and serious injuries (see: worker, the absence of proper fall protection is the violation cited most frequently by OSHA inspectors. Working from heights should not be taken for granted. Preventing fall injuries and fatalities in every workplace is a worthy goal. Suggestions from OSHA include:
- Wear a properly fitting harness, and be sure to always stay connected when working from heights. Also, use guardrails or lifelines, and don’t work around unprotected openings or skylights.
- Inspect equipment each time before use, especially ladders and fall-protection equipment.
- Choose the right ladder for the job, secure it and maintain three points of contact with it.
- When using ladders, don’t place them on unlevel ground or on top of a scaffold, and don’t overreach.
- Don’t stand on scaffolding guardrails or climb cross-braces.