If you work on construction sites, there are often hazards that can result in injuries of various types. According to OSHA, nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites nationwide every day. OSHA reports that the top potential hazards for construction workers are: falls (from heights), trench collapse, scaffold collapse, electric shock and arc flash/arc blast, failure to use proper equipment, and repetitive motion injuries. While these hazards are always possible, there are ways to prevent them or to at the very least, minimize negative impacts.
1. Falls from Heights
Every year, falls from heights comprise 364 out of 937 total deaths in construction. With construction requiring workers to use scaffolding and work on unstable surfaces, it’s easy to see why falls topped the list of OSHA’s “Fatal Four”. According to OSHA, most falls could be attributed to unstable working surfaces, misuse or failure to use fall protection equipment, and human error. To prevent falls in construction, consider using “guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraint systems”.
2. Trench collapse
Two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. The main danger found in trenches is the risk of collapse. According to OSHA, one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car. As trenches are longer than they are wide, unstable earth can collapse, essentially burying workers alive. Other potential risk factors are: falls, falling objects, hazardous atmospheres, and mobile equipment incidents. To prevent incidents in trenches: keep heavy equipment away from trench edges; NEVER enter an unprotected trench; keep excavated soil (spoils) at least two feet away from trench edges; and always provide a way to exit the trench no more than 25 lateral feet away from trench employees.
Additionally, you should always follow the proper protective systems, such as using sloping to cut back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the trench; “Shoring to protect workers by installing supports to prevent soil movement for trenches that do not exceed 20 feet in depth”; and “Shielding to protect workers by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins”.
3. Scaffold Collapse
Scaffolds are often used to provide workers with a more stable working surface than a ladder would provide. While scaffolds are often the safer alternatives to ladders and other lifts, falls hazards can present themselves when scaffolds are not properly used or erected. According to OSHA, “protecting workers from scaffold-related accidents would prevent an estimated 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities each year.” To reduce or prevent scaffold-related accidents, ensure that all scaffolds are erected on solid footing and can support the weight of the scaffold times four times the maximum used load. Never use unstable objects to support scaffolds or planks. All scaffolds must have appropriate safety structures such as: guardrails, midrails, and toeboards. Additionally, all employees should be instructed about proper scaffolding safety before utilizing one.
4. Electric Shock and Arc Flash/Arc Blast
It is always important to follow the appropriate precautions when working with electricity. To avoid shock and electrocution, all electrical wires should be kept away from water and other conductors. All power should be cut off before work begins on electrical circuits. Any frayed, cut, worn, or damaged electrical cords should promptly be replaced. To ensure electrical safety, make sure that electrical power lines are never within ten feet of ladders, scaffolds, equipment or materials.
5. Failure to use proper equipment
If you are on a job site and do not have the proper equipment, you should never improvise. A scaffold should not be made from barrels and planks, and you should always use the appropriate tools for the job. There is a reason why specific equipment is required, and trying to improvise in a pinch will only end in an accident. Additionally, if you are without proper safety equipment, it is not okay to just “do without”. You should always secure proper eye and face, foot, hand, and head protection before beginning a job,
6. Repetitive motion injuries
When you are working in construction, it can be difficult to prevent repetitive motion injuries. If you begin to feel the impacts of a repetitive motion injury or have doubt about the health of your body, your first step should be seeing a doctor who can properly treat the injury before it becomes much worse.
By following these steps and staying up to date with OSHA guidelines, construction accidents can be reduced or prevented entirely. If you or a loved one was in an accident on the job, then you could be faced with extensive medical bills and income loss in an already difficult time. Our workers’ compensation lawyers at The Odierno Law Firm, P.C., we can take care of the legal paperwork and negotiations. While we pursue maximum compensation, you will have no upfront or out-of-pocket fees! Contact our Long Island construction accident lawyers today to discover what you could be owed in financial damages.
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Lee J. Odierno is the managing partner of Odienero Law’s no-fault department. Find out more about Lee on his profile page, or visit any of his social media profiles below: