Working conditions on construction sites are continually changing, and workers must be ready for anything. While safety laws and codes heavily regulate the construction industry, worksite accidents can still occur. In fact, one in every ten construction workers is injured on the job every year.
For those who doubt the importance of maintaining safe work conditions at all times, we guarantee this article will reshape your perspective some. And, by the end, we hope it solidifies a firm understanding of why personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be worn 100% of the time on a construction site.
In this article, we will highlight where you can find specific reports about construction-related accidents that have been filed by OSHA. We also outline other tools you can use to see accident reports to better understand a construction site's potential hazards. Our goal is to give you a more in-depth look at what types of accidents and injuries can occur in this line of work and the consequences construction companies face if specific regulations aren't followed.
OSHA and Accident Reports
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports summaries of construction-related accidents that are open and viewable online. A simple search can give you an overview of the various types of accidents on a construction site. OSHA also provides common statistics that show the prevalence of accidents and how often OSHA is called to investigate them. Their statistics also help other agencies compile reports of accident trends to bring awareness and encourage prevention.
Click here to start searching.
Why would someone care about such information? Well, if you're a safety manager responsible for construction workers' well-being, you want to know where there may be issues and hazards on your construction projects so you can work to protect against them. All the data OSHA provides helps safety professionals know where their attention should be placed to decrease injury opportunities.
The construction world has what they refer to as the "fatal four" categories of construction accidents. As we highlight in our article on Construction Safety, these four types of accidents accounted for 64% of fatalities related to construction accidents in 2015:
- Falls - 364 deaths
- Struck by object - 90 deaths
- Electrocutions - 81 deaths
- Caught in or between - 67 deaths
These stats are alarming and should cause anyone to pause and consider the safety precautions they follow or their Jobsite has put in place. Not all accidents result in death, however. On their website, OSHA reports over 5,600 construction accidents each year. This high number of accidents reveals that there are many ways workers are injured on a job site.
Here are some of the more tragic stories of injury:
- In 2016, a flagger was thrown 140 feet from impact after a car hit her while driving at highway speeds through a construction zone. This event stresses the need for construction workers to be wearing hi-vis gear at all times. And, it emphasizes the need for individuals to slow down when they see construction work signs.
- In 2013, a construction worker became blinded when a test plug burst during a leak test. The incident stresses the need for construction workers to be wearing eye protection at all times.
- In 2006, a worker died from heat-stress while shoveling dirt. Employers must take every step possible to ensure workers are protected from heat, including providing ample water and ensuring the personal protective equipment (PPE) workers wear provides cooling technology.
As you can see, many different types of accidents can occur on a construction site and, while not all are fatal, all are life-changing. Our intent isn't to scare you or up sell you a product. Our goal is to stress how dangerous construction work is and to remind workers to always be on guard from the daily hazards they encounter.
It's also intended to remind readers that searching through OSHA's reports can help construction workers and safety managers learn from others' mistakes and avoid some of the situations that proved dangerous or even fatal.
Frequent Injuries on Construction Sites
Accidents have the potential to cause a variety of injuries, from superficial to fatal. Like OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks the types of injuries sustained on construction sites.
Looking at a recent article from Industrial Safety and Hygiene News (ISHN), here are some of the most common injuries that the CDC identifies:
- Burns – Chemicals and wet cement can burn a construction worker. There is also an ongoing concern for fires and explosions on many construction sites.
- Cuts and lacerations – Nails and metal are the common culprits causing this type of injury.
- Eye wound – Construction sites are plagued by flying dust and debris. It's one industry where eye protection is an absolute must at all times.
- Fractured bones – falls are one of the primary causes of fractures.
- Head injury – All it takes is a tool falling from a second floor to injury the person's head below.
- Heat stroke – As we identify in our Heat Stress article, workers can quickly fall victim to rising temperatures.
- Limb amputation – When a heavy object like a piece of machinery falls, one's body can be brutally mangled. Crush injuries and falls may both result in amputation.
- Loss of hearing – Have you ever listened to a jackhammer operating? If you work around those decibel levels all day, you'll need hearing protection.
- Spinal cord – When fall accidents occur, lifetime injuries to the spine can result.
- Stress and strain – Constant movement and repetitive motions put a lot of strain on a worker's body.
With the physically demanding nature of construction work, combined with bulky and dangerous machinery and equipment, injury on the job site is not uncommon. You'll notice us repeat this notion multiple times because it is the primary point of this article. We want to be sure you never take your safety on a construction site for granted.
Gruesome Accidents and YouTube Reminder Videos
Advancing technology and the evolving construction industry have helped increase worker safety but do not entirely prevent the possibility of tragic accidents on a construction site. Unfortunately, casualties have long been part of construction. History is riddled with stories of tragic, deadly construction accidents to serve as a reminder that they are possible, and we must consider ways to prevent them. Some of these events include:
- On January 29, 1909, in Chicago, IL, 60 workers constructing a water intake tunnel were killed when a powder magazine exploded, burning their wooden living quarters quickly and trapping the men between fire and the ice-filled water of Lake Michigan.
- The construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s was to blame for at least 96 worker deaths, including carbon monoxide poisoning in the diversion tunnels.
- A partially constructed 16-story apartment building in Connecticut collapsed in 1987 due to structural deficiencies, killing 28 construction workers.
You don't have to reach too far back into history to be reminded of the dangerous situations construction workers get themselves into daily. A quick YouTube search will show you dangerous real-life situations on construction sites with heavy equipment accidents, machine failures, and a host of other things that can go wrong on the job.
The Role of Lawyers
On-the-job injuries often result in lawsuits. Lawyers commonly negotiate cash settlements for their injured clients to compensate for accidents on a construction site. Many law firms' websites and the online presence of many independent lawyers will feature articles about the dangers of a construction site and how they can help victims.
For example, Fountain Law Firm in Indianapolis uses its experience as a personal injury firm to bring attention to the most common construction injuries. Morgan and Morgan, a law firm with locations throughout the United States, uses their webpage to discuss the process they go through when investigating an accident for their client. Here are some highlights about the types of injury cases these lawyers represent and some of the ways MCR Safety could have helped protect against these injuries:
- Falling Debris: Construction sites are full of materials that can easily fall on a worker from heights. It's one reason MCR Safety sells steel-toe construction boots.
- Machinery: Every construction worker uses tools of one kind or another. Tools like nail guns and jackhammers can easily cause injury. Be sure to read up on tool safety with our Construction Tools Safety article.
- Insufficient Training: Sometimes, workers need to be reminded about the dangers of construction sites. Training to reinforce the hazards they face on the job is where our 360° Protection Program can help any construction safety manager.
Keeping workers protected helps keeps down fees from increased workmen's comp claims. It's an important reminder because a company's overall insurance and compensation costs increase as construction workers are injured.
Our Construction industry page houses essential information around the most common hazards faced by construction workers. Wearing the appropriate PPE goes a long way in keeping workmen's comp costs from increasing, as workers are less likely to be become injured.
Before a lawyer has to get involved with assisting employees in filing claims for injuries, make sure you've done everything possible to ensure workers are protected with the best PPE.
What to do if you're in a construction accident?
- It's imperative you first get medical attention. It seems obvious, but many will not seek medical treatment unless there are visible signs of injury. However, symptoms may not appear for some time after an accident occurs. Once you have received medical attention and gotten checked out, then make sure that you make your employer aware of the accident, document evidence of your injury and the conditions that led to it, and, if necessary, obtain the services of an attorney.
How to avoid construction accidents?
- Well, we're not going to sugar coat anything here. It's impossible to avoid construction accidents, as the industry is one of the most dangerous sectors. However, safety meetings and training go a long way in keeping workers aware of the safety hazards they face. Keeping the worksite clean and tools properly maintained also helps workers stay safe. And, last but not least, make sure workers are wearing the best PPE for the hazards they face.
What is the number one cause of eye injuries for construction workers?
- As the CDC reports, there are more than 10,000 eye injuries each year in construction. Flying debris and dust is a constant concern and the most common culprit causing eye injury.
What is the construction percentage of total fatal injuries?
- Fatalities for the construction occupation increased by 6% in 2019, to over 1,060. It's the highest number reported since 2007.
Which sector of the construction industry has the highest rate of fatal injuries?
- Utility system construction has the largest number of fatalities, with 70 deaths reported in 2019. What's a little alarming, too, is that utility system construction ranks 11 out of 19 sub-industries within construction for total injuries. This means that work in this industry is hazardous, primarily because workers operate around live electricity.
Helping Protect Construction Workers
Construction accidents are unavoidable at times. However, it's up to everyone working in construction to do their part in ensuring every precaution is taken. As a last defense, behind administrative and engineering controls, proper PPE should be worn that addresses the hazards workers face. And, MCR Safety is here to help!
MCR Safety Construction Industry Resource Page
When it comes to preventing injuries on the worksite, MCR Safety is the expert in providing the appropriate PPE to keep you safe. If you're a construction professional, we encourage you to check out our dedicated Construction industry page, covering hazards and recommended PPE across ten individual construction subsector pages.
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For over 45 years, MCR Safety has proven to be a world leader in gloves, glasses, and garments. Whether it's on the shop floor, an oil rig, or a construction site, we are there to provide solutions to workplace hazards. It's all part of our commitment to protect people.
No matter your industry, we have the personal protective equipment you need.
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