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How to prevent the "fatal four" in construction accidents

Based on accident data of 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified four types of accidents that caused more than half of the fatalities on construction sites in that year. It is a sad fact that most of those deaths were preventable if proper safety protocols had been in place. If you keep a lookout for these hazards, you may have a better chance of staying safe.

Falls: With over 100,000 deaths and serious injuries caused by falls every year, this is the primary cause of construction site fatalities. Employers are responsible for the following:

  • Every elevated surface on which workers move about must have toe-boards and guard rails along open sides. These include runways, floors and platforms, along with the edges of safe zones around hazardous equipment and machines.
  • Handrails must be on all stairs and other areas requiring rails.
  • Properly fitted personal protective equipment and training for using the equipment must be provided to all workers in the language the workers understand. This equipment must include harnesses, lanyards, secure anchor points and safety nets where necessary.

Electrocution: The second highest number of deaths and injuries on construction sites result from electrical hazards with over 300 workers suffering electrocution every year. More than 4,000 per year suffer injuries caused by this hazard. The following is required of employers:

  • Companies must provide appropriate safety training that covers recognizing of electrical hazards and prevention of accidents.
  • Companies must also provide the required personal protective equipment and train employees in the proper use of it.
  • Employers are responsible for monitoring the use of PPE as workers sometimes avoid wearing it because it limits their movability.

Struck-by-Object: Number three in the list of leading accident causes is being struck by falling objects, such as a suspended load dropping, flying object that may include debris or thrown tools, swinging objects when insecure loads sway, rolling equipment or vehicles in motion. These hazards often occur unexpectedly, leaving the victim no time to take evasive action. To avoid such tragedies, employers should implement the following:

  • Your company must ensure the presence of protective guards that are in good repair.
  • Your employer is required to provide safety goggles, eyeglasses or face shields for all workers who use power tools.
  • Your employer should prevent employees from moving too close to machines by installing debris nets, screens and toe boards.
  • Your supervisors should avoid situations where workers are walking underneath other workers in action, and never let them walk about a construction site without wearing hard hats.
  • Your supervisors should teach employees never to stand underneath suspended loads, and make sure that the operators keep a lookout for workers on ground level.

Caught-in-Between: The fourth most dangerous construction hazard involves workers accidently caught between objects. This includes incidents in which their entire bodies are pinned or crushed, or the working parts of machines pull in hands, arms or other body parts. Collapsing materials and rollovers of equipment can also trap workers between two objects. Employers need to implement the following guidelines to avoid such situations:

  • Your employer should teach its employees about the pull-in and other danger points of equipment such as crush, wrap, sheer and pinch points.
  • Your company should ensure energy isolation before maintenance or cleaning takes place.
  • Your supervisor needs to ensure that workers do not wear loose clothes, jewelry, or have long untied hair or other objects that operating machines can catch.

Every one of the "fatal four" is preventable, and potential workers' compensation claims can be avoided, if employers comply with the prescribed safety regulations of OSHA. If you suffer an on-the-job injury, you may file benefits claims with the Alabama workers' compensation insurance program. Although it is a morbid thought, rest assured that the insurance program could also provide death benefits to your family if you should suffer a fatal injury, and experienced attorneys can assist you or your surviving family through the process.

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