Every year, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) conducts more than 50,000 workplace safety inspections. Even still, 4,609 on-the-job fatalities occurred in 2011. Nearly 800 of these deaths were caused by construction accidents. OSHA identified the top reasons behind construction site deaths and launched a campaign against the industry's "fatal four:" falls, electrocutions, struck-by accidents and caught in/between injuries. The fatal four are responsible for three out of every five construction-related deaths.
Falls on Construction Sites
According to OSHA, fall protection alone could save more than 400 lives in the construction industry every year. Falls may be caused by portable ladders, unguarded steel rebar, wall openings, unprotected edges, and floor holes. In fact, fall injuries account for nearly one third of all construction accident deaths in the United States. Although most construction projects require floor openings and unsafe edges at some point, improper protection from these hazards can lead to serious injuries or deaths.
Sprains, concussions, and broken bones are common injuries associated with falls, but more serious conditions – such as spinal cord damage and paralysis – can easily result from a fall as well. To prevent these accidents, floor holes should remain covered and exposed edges should be protected by guard rails. Generally speaking, guard railing and other preventative measures are more effective than fall protection, such as safety nets.
Electrocution & Electrical Injuries
In the United States, electrical injuries are responsible for hundreds of fatalities every year and are one of the most common causes of construction-related deaths. Power lines, inadequate grounding, improper use of equipment, and faulty power cords are some of the most common hazards associated with electrocution on construction sites. According to OSHA standards, workers are not allowed to work near an electrical power circuit unless they have adequate protection.
To avoid these injuries and fatalities, employers should identify electrical hazards and post warning signs. Construction workers should never use faulty machinery or power tools that require electricity; this can quickly lead to an accident. Training is one of the best ways to prevent electrocution injuries and deaths on the job. With a clear understanding of electrical circuits and machinery, workers can avoid making dangerous mistakes.
The third most common fatal construction accident is the "struck-by" accident. Struck-by injuries and deaths occur when a worker is hit by another object, such as a vehicle or flying object. Many of these accidents involve vehicles, but falling loads can result in fatal struck-by accidents as well. To avoid this type of accident, a driver should never operate a vehicle if his/her view is obstructed. Cranes and other heavy lifting machines can prevent struck-by accidents by only lifting loads within their lift capacity.
Caught In/Between Accidents
The final injury in the fatal four, the "caught in/between" accident, is similar to the struck-by accident. Caught in/between injuries occur when a construction worker is pinned between a moving object (such as a vehicle) and a stationary object, such as a wall. Like struck-by accidents, these incidents can be prevented by awareness and caution.
What Happens After a Construction Injury or Fatality?
Some accidents are the result of unavoidable circumstances, but many are caused by human error. If you or a loved one has suffered an avoidable construction injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation. At the Daspit Law Firm, we are dedicated to providing high-quality legal guidance to victims of construction accidents in Houston and the surrounding area. To learn more about the firm or to see what we can do for you, call us for a free case evaluation.