3 Ways to Prevent Common Construction Accidents and Save Lives
The statistics are almost too much to bear. Time and again, the stats show the numbers of those either injured or killed on a construction site are rising. In 2014, the largest number of workplace fatalities in the United States came from the construction industry—upwards of 5,000 per year—where something went seriously awry in standards and procedures. Moreover, it’s not just the U.S. stats that are sad; even greater numbers of people have been killed on construction projects around the world, with some 60,000 or more fatalities in any given year. Thailand holds the unfavorable distinction of having the highest rate of construction-related accidents and fatalities. This leads to the obvious question of what can reasonably be done to prevent accidents—whether caused by human error or not—and save lives on construction projects.
Here are three ways to prevent common construction-related occupational fatalities.
Preventing Accidents from “Backovers”
When you’re walking down the street, as you pass a construction zone, you’ll frequently be asked to wait a second by a construction worker, typically a “spotter,” until one of the construction trucks, perhaps a dump truck or a tractor-trailer, pulls out or maneuvers into a new position. Sometimes passersby ignore the warnings by the workers, but they shouldn’t. So-called “backover accidents” have taken the lives of too many workers. This type of truck accident is exactly what it sounds like: It’s what happens when a vehicle—dump trucks and tractor-trailers are the worst offenders—accidently backs over someone, causing injury and even death. It’s important for both workers and pedestrians to be vigilant in watching out for moving vehicles on construction sites to avoid any injuries. Other preventive measures include ensuring workers wear reflective gear so that they’re easily visible and investing in proximity sensors that can alert the driver when there’s an object that’s too close to the vehicle. Another is to install a video camera inside the vehicle, so the driver can get a good rearview look and proceed with caution, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Preventing Accidents from Falls
Sometimes what causes serious injury on the construction site isn’t the result of a piece of large equipment or a vehicle; it’s quite simply a fall—but a fatal fall. Falling on a construction site can be the demise of the worker if they’re perched high above a roof, for example, without a protective parapet and they take a tumble. In the summer of 2017, a steel worker, which is considered one of the most dangerous jobs for men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was doing some work on one of Facebook’s new buildings and accidentally fell. Fortunately, he was wearing his safety equipment, and that is what was responsible for saving his life, the local fire department chief said. This example illustrates the importance of wearing safety harnesses and other protective gear; it really can be a life-or-death matter.
Preventing Accidents from Falling Objects
Construction sites are notorious zones for basic falling objects. All it takes is a piece of equipment to fall down from on high, or even a beam, and hit a worker perhaps situated on some scaffolding to cause serious injury. That injury can lead to a worker shortage, a project delay, an investigation by OSHA and thousands of dollars in compensation damage. With such fallout, it’s critical that workers be supplied with and wear the necessary hard hats, gloves, goggles, face protection and other safety gear—collectively known as personal protective equipment, or PPE—they’re given for the project. More important, OSHA requires that workers wear this equipment.
OSHA: The Worker’s Ally
OSHA is an important advocate for workers. A worker can feel free to file a complaint with OSHA if they believe their working situation is particularly dangerous or unhealthy, and they haven’t been given the necessary equipment or gear to keep themselves perfectly safe in the situation. Legally, the worker does not have to work in any type of life-threatening situation. OSHA takes these worker grievances seriously.
Accidents from construction projects, such as those caused by falling objects and moving construction vehicles, can be prevented with precautions such as sufficiently training workers (even having daily or weekly meetings with them); ensuring workers wear the necessary safety gear, or PPE; and ensuring workers remain hypervigilant about potential hazards. If a worker is involved in an accident, they must immediately contact their supervisor, get the medical treatment they need and contact OSHA regarding any questions or concerns they may have regarding the incident.