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Mitigating Risk on Building Construction Sites

Did you know? According to OSHA, although only 6% of the nation’s workforce is in construction, 20% of worker deaths in the U.S. are in the industry. This means that 1 in 5 deaths among American workers occur in construction, which is not only a high number, but also disproportionate.

Overall, worker deaths in the United States are down – thanks to the efforts of advocates like OSHA, unions, and employers, the number is down from 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 15 a day in 2019. That’s a decrease of more than 50% in nearly as many years, but there’s still work to be done.

What Are Construction’s “Fatal Four?”

Construction sites can be dangerous places to work. In such a complex environment, there are several moving parts such as the design, the equipment, and the workers themselves that must be coordinated and organized to complete the project on time, on budget, and most importantly, safely. It’s important for employers to take every precaution possible to ensure the safety of their workers while on site.

The construction industry’s “fatal four” are:

  • Falls
  • Being struck by an object
  • Electrocution
  • Being caught in between objects

These dangers are called the “fatal four” because they cause approximately 60% of fatal injuries in the construction industry. Of these four, falls are the most numerous because workers are frequently performing tasks at a height. In fact, fatal falls in construction account for 51% of all falls in the United States.

Nonfatal Injuries in Construction

Aside from the high number of fatalities that occur in the construction industry, nonfatal injuries are also a serious concern. According to OSHA, one in every ten construction workers is injured every year, and half of those incidents often go unreported.

Common nonfatal injuries in construction are:

  • Hearing loss
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Burns from fire or explosion
  • Respiratory issues
  • Back injuries from heavy lifting

What Is Risk Mitigation?

To help prevent fatal and nonfatal injuries alike, construction companies should adhere to the four types of risk mitigation. This process begins even before a project is bid on and continues on throughout the project; safety must be considered every step of the way.

The four types of risk mitigation are:

  • Risk acceptance. Although it doesn’t reduce the effects of the risk, risk acceptance is common when the cost of the risk is lower than that of safer alternatives such as risk avoidance or limitation.
  • Risk avoidance. Often the most expensive option, risk avoidance removes any exposure to the risk.
  • Risk limitation. The most common option, risk limitation often combines risk acceptance and risk avoidance.
  • Risk transference. A common practice in the construction industry, risk transference involves handing risk off to a third party, such as outsourcing a job or a portion of the project.

How Can Risk Mitigation Make Construction Sites Safer?

Risk mitigation is an important aspect of keeping construction sites safe. It should be considered in every bid and plan throughout a project.

A risk mitigation plan should include:

  • A list of risks
  • A rating of each risk
  • An assessment of current processes
  • A plan of action

A plan is just the start of risk mitigation. Once team members have been identified to own your site’s risk management, they should work through this plan with each individual risk. Additionally, once these steps have been completed, the plan should be tested and workers should be effectively trained on the correct implementation.

To help prevent the “fatal four” more specifically, safety techniques must be implemented on construction sites after being assessed through the risk mitigation plan.

Some examples of these techniques include:

  • The three points of contact rule to prevent falls. This rule determines that three out of four limbs must be in contact with the vehicle, ladder, or platform a person is climbing or standing on to maximize stability.
  • Training on equipment like cranes and aerial lifts to prevent collisions or falling objects.
  • Improving communication amongst workers and between project managers and their teams.
  • Providing the proper protective equipment for the job.

These rules should not only be taught through training, but also maintained and enforced throughout the project.

Fighting for Construction Workers

Construction companies and project managers have an obligation to create and maintain a safe workplace. When they choose to cut corners, they put the lives and livelihoods of their workers at risk. There’s no excuse for putting profit before people; the construction accident lawyers at Arnold & Itkin are committed to holding companies accountable for their negligence. No matter what.

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