OSHA's Fatal Four: Common Construction Site Accidents

Understand the top construction site accidents and how to avoid them. Learn essential tips to prevent trips, slips, and more, ensuring a safer work environment for everyone!

Sonco Perimeter Security

Sonco Perimeter Security, May 28, 2024

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OSHA's Fatal Four: Common Construction Site Accidents

Despite worker safety laws and training programs, construction continues to rank in the top ten most dangerous industries for employee injuries.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, many construction accidents are caused by falls, slips, and trips. Also ranking in the top five reasons for a construction site accident are injuries caused by faulty electrical connections, being struck by an object, or being caught between multiple pieces of equipment.

While reducing the risk of a fatal construction accident should remain a top priority, businesses cannot overlook non-fatal construction site injuries such as tripping over poorly secured temporary fence bases. These injuries add up, impacting operations and increasing Worker's Compensation rates.

According to Liberty Mutual, non-fatal construction injuries cost the industry almost $8 billion per year and account for 75% of the total direct costs for Worker's Compensation.

The average employee misses five days of work. That number is considered low because many workers do not report their injuries or seek medical help. So, what are the most common non-fatal workplace accidents on a construction site?

Most Common Construction Site Accidents

Determining the top five or ten types of construction accidents depends on how the information from the US Department of Labor is arranged. However, most calculations place the following at the top of the list:

  • Falls, Slips, Trips
  • Struck-by
  • Caught Betweens
  • Electrocution

Often referred to as OSHA fatal four, these categories are also at the top of the list for fatal construction accidents.

Falls

Although the exact number may vary from year to year, falls rank as the primary cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in construction. Most often the violation was due to a failure to provide workers with adequate protection.

Since the majority of construction workers are exposed to heights, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to minimize the risk of construction injury due to falls.

Workers should have tethered safety harnesses when working from heights. Temporary guardrails are another way to minimize construction injury from falls. Finally, some organizations are looking at ways to design buildings to reduce the risk to construction workers.

Trips and slips

Placed under the "fall" umbrella, trip and slip statistics are often separated from falls to gain more insight into workplace accidents. For example, construction sites may have loose cords, uneven surfaces, or loose building materials. These obstacles increase the likelihood of someone tripping and falling.

Organized work sites minimize the risk of slips and trips. Placing temporary fencing around building materials prevents workers from accidentally stumbling over drywall, concrete blocks, or coiled wire. Making sure the site perimeter is enclosed also restricts pedestrians from wandering onto a work site.

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Struck-by Incidents

When construction workers are struck by falling, flying, swinging, or rolling objects, they have suffered a struck-by accident. These injuries encompass road construction crews who may be struck by a motorist or building crews who may be struck by tools falling from an upper level.  

Safety training should reinforce awareness on a construction site. Workers should remain at a safe distance from all operating machinery, especially cranes that have a wide swinging radius.

Construction sites should require all workers to have a way to tether their tools to prevent an accident.

Electrocution

Workers may inadvertently touch a live wire during construction. That's why job sites must remain as organized as possible and follow safety tips such as checking power tools and extension cords before using them. Overhead power lines are another risk at job sites.

Site managers should ensure that all power equipment, plugs, and wires are inspected daily to avoid fraying. They should also follow the recommended guidelines for grounding electrical current.

Caught-Between Accidents

Caught-between incidents occur when workers are trapped between objects, resulting in a crushing injury. Again, worker awareness is one of the primary ways to reduce caught-between accidents.

Materials can shift, and unsecured equipment may roll, putting workers at risk. Trench cave-ins are another accident waiting to happen unless support walls are in place to protect the workers.

Workers should wear high-visibility clothing so others can see them. Site managers should inspect equipment and stored materials frequently to minimize potential risks.

How to Prevent Slips and Trips

Slips happen when a person loses traction when walking or stepping on a surface. Trips occur when a person catches their foot on something, causing them to lose their balance and fall.

Construction sites are full of opportunities for someone to trip, slip, or fall. The following tips can help reduce the potential risk.

  • Use Proper Footwear. Whenever possible, employees should wear work boots that are slip-resistant and have steel- or composite-toed shoes to prevent injury.
  • Use Signage. Place safety signage near wet or uneven surfaces. When fluids spill, clean them immediately and post signs to alert workers and visitors.
  • Restrict Access. Job sites can be muddy messes. Place planks or other material over slippery ground to avoid slips. If weather conditions make that impossible, restrict access with temporary fencing.
  • Remove Obstacles. Loose materials and debris can make walkways hazardous. Workers can slip on a nail or trip over a loose cord. Make sure the job site is clear at the start of each day.
  • Install Lighting. If areas lack adequate lighting, install temporary lighting. Highlight stairs and equipment that may be difficult to see or identify changes in traffic patterns.
  • Conduct Training. Perform safety training at regular intervals.

Construction sites present many potential risks to workers, visitors, and casual observers. Temporary fencing can help reduce that risk by restricting access to more hazardous areas. To be effective, the fencing must be stable enough to withstand the elements and not add to the trip-and-slip risk. 

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Temporary Fencing to Reduce Trip-and-Slip Risks

Every construction site needs perimeter fencing. Some companies install permanent fencing, while others use temporary fences as a cost-effective alternative. No matter the fencing choice, it must provide the stability needed to keep a site safe and secure.

While sandbags are often used as counterweights to stabilize temporary fencing, they can become dislodged or scattered, adding to worksite obstacles. They may also lack the required strength to withstand gale-force winds, blizzard conditions, or tornadoes.

With SONCO's Anchor Base family, stability and security are not a problem. The bases are made from recycled plastic and have high-visibility detailing for added safety. They also have a longer lifespan than other alternatives, and their compact appearance is more appealing than a cluster of sandbags every 20 feet. 

Whether you're looking for perimeter fencing or a better way to organize a job site, SONCO's family of products can help minimize the dangers facing the construction industry. With a safer job site, companies have fewer accidents, less downtime due to illness or injury, and a stronger bottom line.  

 

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