Common Causes of Construction Accidents and How to Prevent Them

preventing construction safety

Beyond Compliance: How to Build a Culture of Safety on Your Construction Site

Construction sites can look and feel like organized chaos to the general public as many different types of contractors are working in unison from the same set of plans and towards a common goal. 

Every contractor plays a vital role in bringing the project to life, and their safety is just as important as their job. Despite this, construction work can be dangerous. If fact 150,000 construction workers are injured every year, with approximately 3 in every 100,000 workers dying on the job each year, according to OSHA.

Maintaining construction site safety is crucial because construction work can be hazardous. Minimizing the risk of accidents and injury requires the right safety practices, protocols, and adequate training. 

To avoid job site accidents, it’s important to review the common causes, known as OSHA’s Focus Four Hazards in construction, and implement measures to prevent them.

1. Slip, Trip & Fall Hazards

In 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics cited the construction industry was responsible for 46.1% of all slips, trips and fatal falls. Most of these can be avoided when fall prevention and protection equipment are properly executed. 

There are numerous scenarios where someone could slip, trip, or fall. Here are a few common events:

  • Spill of wet or solid material
  • Loose surfaces or uneven flooring
  • Cords and cables in the open and not properly secured
  • Floor holes not properly marked

A slip, trip or fall could be avoided in these events with immediate action to clean up spills or messes and the use of “wet floor” or other caution signs. All holes should be marked with caution tape or signs. In addition, keeping the job site clean and well-lit will help prevent injury.

There are several scenarios in which a worker may be at risk of falling, including working at heights. This is particularly true in construction where workers may be reaching overhead wiring from ladders, painting from scaffolding, or framing and roofing at any given time. To manage the risk of falls, a hierarchy of fall protection measures should be followed. These include eliminating the fall hazard, using passive fall protection systems, using fall restraint systems, using fall arrest systems, and implementing administrative controls.

However, many of these accidents can be prevented by implementing proper fall prevention and protection measures. Fall protection requirements are set by OSHA, which mandates that elevations of four feet or more in general industry workplaces and six feet or more in the construction industry must have adequate fall protection.

  • Proper safety training.
  • Heightened awareness of the jobsite.
  • Utilization of fall protection measures can significantly reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls in construction.

By implementing these measures, construction workers can help prevent accidents and ensure they return home safely at the end of each day.

2. Struck-by Accidents

With all the moving parts on a construction site, struck-by accidents are another common cause of injury among construction workers. A stuck-by accident is just as it sounds.

These injuries occur when a worker has forcible contact or impact with an object, tool, or equipment.

Being struck by an object can occur in various ways, such as when an object flies, falls, swings, or rolls into someone. For example, a carpenter swinging a hammer on the job site could accidentally hit a co-worker with the hammerhead. Alternatively, a worker kneeling on the ground in a blind spot could be struck by a construction vehicle that is backing up and not able to see them.

Prevention saves lives. The risk of struck-by accidents can be minimized by:

  • Maintaining awareness of your surroundings with active listening and a good line of sight.
  • Connecting tools to your work belt.
  • Protecting your head and body with job-appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) like hard hats and steel-toed boots.
  • Planning construction traffic routes.
  • Identifying and marketing safe crane and lift work zones.
  • Continuing to educate, monitor and promote job site safety.

Having the proper control measures for construction workers on your job site and executing strong construction safety management will keep struck-by accidents at bay.

3. Electrocutions

The construction industry is the leading source of workplace electrocutions. The CDC NIOSH Science Blog notes electrical safety issues are in the top ten most frequently cited OSHA violations.

Electrical hazards come in many forms. Some are directly related to electrical work, such as improper grounding, inadequate wiring, or overloaded circuits. Other electrical hazards are damaged tools or equipment, wet conditions, or overhead power lines.

There are many strategies to avoid electrocutions. First, having the proper training and complying with all OSHA standards is a good foundation for avoiding electrical-related injury or death. On the job site, construction workers should be:

  • Using proper PPE for the job, such as leather gloves, a hard hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and a face shield.
  • Verifying their equipment is properly grounded or double insulated. 
  • Keeping metal items away from live electrical circuits. 
  • Unplugging equipment and tools when conducting repairs.
  • Checking extension cords for damage and removing them from use.

Installing or simply working with electricity is commonplace in construction. Knowing and applying safety protocols is essential to an electrocution-free job site.

4. Caught-In or -Between Accidents

Construction sites are buzzing with tools, equipment, and heavy machinery. Many of these are the source of caught-in or -between accidents. Recognizing their potential for workplace danger is an underlying way to avoid being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between objects or parts of an object.

Maintaining construction site safety around tools, equipment, and heavy machinery mitigates worker risk of injury. Ensure workers are:

  • Guarding machinery and doing it correctly. 
  • Applying proper methods to secure or support equipment for safe use.
  • Creating safe distance between themselves and equipment, materials or other objects – stationary or moving.
  • Securing excavation sites by sloping trenches and shoring for support.

Moving throughout a construction site attentively and safely will help prevent bodily harm from being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed on the job.

The Value of Construction Safety Management and Training

Construction safety management and training are crucial in preventing accidents and hazards on job sites. OSHA’s Focus Four Hazards in construction can be avoided with the implementation of formal safety systems and training programs. 

A construction safety management system entails identifying, evaluating, analyzing, and controlling potential hazards and risks on the job site. The goal is to take a proactive approach to prevent accidents. However, construction site safety is not just about implementing policies, procedures, and assessments. 

It is also important to provide regular safety training and education to construction workers. Safety training can take different forms, such as formal OSHA classes, safety meetings, and informal Toolbox Talks. The latter serves to reinforce safety practices and encourage workers to be vigilant in identifying and addressing potential hazards. 

By promoting communication and collaboration around safety, Toolbox Talks can create a culture of safety on the job site, which ultimately reduces the risk of accidents and injuries. Safety reminders on posters and signage can serve as a helpful nudge to ensure that workers adhere to safety procedures and protocols, allowing them to go home safely at the end of the day.

Promoting a Safer Workplace in Construction

Promoting a safer workplace in construction involves implementing effective safety measures, such as providing regular training, involving workers in safety programs, and supplying appropriate personal protective equipment.

It is important to prioritize the well-being of workers and create a culture of safety within the organization to prevent accidents, fatalities, and financial losses. By eliminating unsafe conditions and behaviors through proper education and training, construction companies can greatly reduce the risk of the “Focus Four” hazards and promote a safer working environment for all.