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Construction Safety Tips: Common Accidents and How to Avoid Them
7 minute read
Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
May 3, 2023

Construction Safety Tips: Common Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 20% of workplace deaths happen in construction. That's why safety in construction is always an important topic and why organizations like Construction Safety Week are necessary.

Unfortunately, many of the deaths that occur are avoidable and preventable by creating a safe work environment that prioritizes following safety best practices. Here, we'll cover how to improve safety on-site, reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry, and build a culture of accident prevention.

The "Big Four" Construction Accidents

Four big hazards happen in construction according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Those are falls, struck-by incidents, caught in or between incidents, and electrocutions.

According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, falls are just over 36% of industry-related deaths, struck-by incidents are 15.4%, electrocutions are 7.2%, and caught in or between are 5.4%. All these numbers are as recent as 2019 and 2020.

Through proactive action, many of these death numbers can be lowered. Below, we will cover a bit more about each core four accidents and how to reduce them.

Fall-related Accidents

Fall-related accidents are the number one reason for deaths on-site in construction. As mentioned above, over one-third of deaths in construction are from falls and account for 46% of all fall deaths in the workplace across all industries. That's a staggering number that is way too high.

However, in an industry that works at extreme heights whether on tall buildings, ladders, aerial equipment, or scaffolding, the risk of falling is massive if not careful. This is due to many things including the lack of walls, unprotected siding, not using fall protection systems, and more.

As a standard, guardrails and personal fall arrest systems should be used when working at any height over 6'. Whether this is harnessing yourself to your scissor lift or the roof, even basic safety practices could help save several lives a year.

On scaffolding, it's important to have access ladders that make it safe to climb up and down easily. There should also be guardrails and work platforms that are level and reduce any chance of slipping. They must also be secured on base plates and mud sills to help support the structure.

For aerial lifts, it's important that the operator and user and certified to use the machine. This will give them a basic knowledge of not only how to operate equipment, but how to limit their risk of falling. These platforms can be better to use than ladders as they're typically more stable.

If not possible, make sure when using a ladder that you're doing it safely. Always use the right size of the ladder and inspect it before using it. Make sure you have good footing and never stand on the top of the ladder.

Other ladder best practices include:

  • Going up face first

  • Don't climb with any materials

  • Only use ladders on stable surfaces

Struck-by Accidents

Another big four safety concern is struck-by accidents. These can occur in a few different ways including falling objects, flying objects, swinging or slipping objects, and objects on level ground.

Falling objects include materials falling from heights. This could include materials and tools from scaffolding, ladders, roofs, or even aerial equipment. To reduce this, make sure equipment is stored safely when at heights.

This means tying down materials, putting them under tarps, or keeping them away from the edges. It also means removing any tripping hazards from the area. Maintain your work area and reduce the chance of tripping!

Struck by flying objects includes things like grinding materials or cutting things with a saw. Even air pressurized above 30 psi can drive different oils and other particles through your skin. Nowadays, you may have to even watch out for drones on construction sites as they're becoming more popular for land surveying and other tasks.

Swinging or slipping objects include loads that are even lifted or suspended. It's best to not work directly under any materials that are being transported or craned and to create some space for the materials to be placed. Reduce the risk of harm from slipping objects by securing them for lifting and never working under a load. Also, know the specs of your machine and never lift more than suggested.

Lastly, there's struck by objects on level ground. This includes being hit by heavy equipment or traffic, some of the most unfortunate and devastating accidents. One way to avoid being hit by heavy equipment is to use spotters on site, especially with cranes or excavation equipment. Giving a spotter and hand signals to equipment operators will help reduce any chance of being hit by a machine.

For traffic concerns, make sure that signs are posted around the job site to encourage safe driving from other citizens. Also, put up physical barriers that will protect your workers from vehicles and traffic when possible and have traffic controllers to limit potential risk.

Caught-in or Caught-between Accidents

The third common hazard of the big four is caught-in and caught-between accidents. These happen in four main ways: heavy equipment, tools and equipment, material handling, and trenching.

The frequent caught-between accidents with heavy equipment are being pinned between the machine and an unmovable object or being in the swing radius of machinery that rotates. To avoid this, always use a spotter when working with excavation or rotating equipment and work from a safe distance.

For tools and equipment, caught-in hazards occur when guards or safety measures are removed from equipment. A common one is removing the guard from circular saws. This can increase the risk of getting your clothes caught in the equipment or your hand and other parts of your body. Avoid this by keeping the guards on and avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry.

When it comes to material handling, most accidents happen when stacking or storing materials. Lots of construction material is heavy. Use the proper equipment to lift the stacks and items and don't position yourself in an area where the materials could fall on you when storing.

The last caught-in hazard happens a lot when excavating or trenching and the proper safety techniques are not utilized. Cave-ins happen more than they should. When trenches aren't properly dug, dirt can fall into the hole and trap the workers. Creating exits, sloping, shoring, and trench boxes are crucial to ensuring the trench you're digging is safe.

Electrocution Accidents

The last common construction site safety hazard is electrocution accidents. Some of the most common electrocution hazards include contact with power lines, failing to properly de-energize electrical equipment, and misidentified wiring.

Types of electrical injuries include falls, electric shock, electrocution, and burns. Each of these can cause serious harm to construction workers, electricians, and laborers, and have different levels of severity.

Working with wires can be one of the most dangerous jobs, that's why only qualified and skilled technicians should be employed for these tasks. Especially important in utility work, calling your local 811 chapter will help reduce any risk of electrocution through the ground. It's also important to keep a safe distance and not touch any exposed wires.

Additional Common Accidents

Because we work so much with equipment here at DOZR, we also wanted to highlight one more very common safety hazard: operating machinery and equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Safety

Every piece of machinery and heavy equipment is different but there are some standard best practices to apply.

The first is for cabbed equipment like skid steers, bulldozers, wheel loaders, and more. It's important to ensure that these have basic, standard safety features like rollover protection systems (ROPS) and seatbelts. These are some of the most dangerous accidents that can happen when operating equipment and are crucial to keeping you safe.

When climbing in and out of equipment, trips, falls, and scrapes are possible. To avoid these issues, maintain three points of contact with the machine, only climb the equipment the way they're designed, and wear workboots that provide stability. The provided handrails will help keep you safe.

Use the cameras, alarms, lights, and horns to your advantage. Navigate the construction site carefully and use a spotter when needed. This will help keep you aware of anything that might get in your way when moving.

Read more about our forklift, bulldozer, and soil compactor safety tips.

What Can Construction Companies Do to Protect Workers?

There are a few things that you as an owner, laborer, or construction professional can do to encourage safety on construction sites. These include promoting the importance of PPE and providing adequate safety training.

Importance of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE is incredibly important for maintaining and promoting safety on a construction site. Commonly seen PPE items include hard hats and face shields, safety glasses and eye protection, and hi-vis clothing.

These items will help protect workers from the core fore hazards listed above. For example, safety goggles will help protect your eyes and face from flying objects. Hi-vis clothing will help you be seen, especially at night, on construction projects and reduce the chances of being hit by traffic.

Personal fall arrest systems like chest straps and anchoring rings, especially when on lifts or elevation, will also help keep you safe from falls and trips.

Safety Training

Another thing that employers can do is provide safety training. This could be either through internal resources at daily safety meetings or by actually sending your employees to OSHA-certified training courses in your area. Regular training and staying up on safety regulations will help keep you and your employees safe and protected.

As one of the most dangerous industries in the world, staying sharp and knowledgeable about safety regulations and training, especially the big four hazards, is important. Accidental and avoidable deaths happen numerous times every year and we should be doing what we can to stop them from happening.

Ways to prioritize equipment are providing your employees with the right PPE and safety training, giving them yearly quizzes about safety, and addressing hazards on site when you see them. Every worker and laborer has the power to make a change and impact the lives of those around them through safety practices.

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Kevin Forestell headshot
Kevin Forestell
Kevin Forestell is CEO of DOZR and one of the co-founders. Kevin first got started as an entrepreneur when he founded Forestell Landscaping right after graduating from University. His love and passion for the industry and desire to help solve an equipment problem that contractors faced every day is what brought the founding team to start DOZR. Kevin is proud of the level of efficiency brought to the industry through DOZR and hopes that DOZR will help change the standard way equipment is rented.
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