Construction Site Dangers
Nationally-Renowned Houston Construction Accident Lawyers
It is no secret that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous in the world. Per the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), over 20 percent of work-related fatalities in the private sector in 2014 were related to construction. Many of these stem from what OSHA has dubbed the "Fatal Four," which cause more than 500 work-related fatalities every year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the "Fatal Four" were responsible for 58 percent of construction worker deaths in 2014.
The "Fatal Four" include the following:
- Falls from Height (40%)
- Electrocution (8%)
- Struck by Object (8%)
- Caught-In / Between Objects (1.4%)
Note that these percentages are how many of all construction fatalities are from each incident type. For instance, about 40 percent of all construction injuries are from falls, which adds up to about 350 deaths a year and countless injuries like spinal cord injury, severe fractures, traumatic brain injury, and more. OSHA aims to prevent all "Fatal Four" accidents, as most on-the-job fatalities are due to poor safety practice.
The Most Common Hazards for Construction Workers
Every day, more than 6 million construction workers are employed at more than 250,000 construction sites across the country. While construction work is inherently dangerous (it has a higher fatal injury rate than any other industry in the nation), that does not mean that workers should simply accept injury. Employers have a responsibility to their employees to ensure that OSHA standards are met and that they are maintaining a safe work environment. If they fail to adhere to this duty, they can and should be held responsible.
Below, we explain some of the most common hazards on Texas construction sites.
Construction workers are commonly asked to work on scaffolding, which is a temporary structure. Unfortunately, scaffolds are often erected incorrectly, leaving them shaky and unsteady. Scaffolding accidents cause more than 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities annually.
To counteract the high rate of scaffolding injuries, a scaffold must be capable of carrying not only its own weight, but four times its maximum intended load without settling or moving. It should also be erected on solid footing without unstable objects being used to support it.
Other solutions for making scaffolding safer:
- Only erect, move, or dismantle scaffold under a competent person's supervision
- Properly equip scaffold with guardrails, midrails, and toeboards
- Immediately repair or replace damaged / weakened scaffold accessories
- Instruct all employees about the hazards of using diagonal braces as fall protection
One of the most common causes of injury for construction workers is falling from a height. In 2014, OSHA reported 660 fatalities as a result of falling from a height. Regardless of whether they are working on a roof, scaffolding, or a ladder, construction workers are often asked to conduct their work up high. When workers are not provided with adequate fall protection, the results can be disastrous.
Common ways to prevent fall injuries include:
- Stable Scaffolding
- Fall Arrest Systems
- Safety Nets
- Secured Covers
- Restraint Systems
Ladders & Stairways
According to statistics released by OSHA, more than 24,000 injuries and 35 fatalities occur every year because of a fall from a ladder or a stairway on a construction site. Of these, more than 50 percent require time off from work. Most commonly, ladder accidents occur because the wrong ladder was used for the job, the ladder failed because it was in poor condition, or the ladder was used improperly (often due to a lack of training).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a study of 1,400 ladder accidents, which found:
- 73% of victims had not been given clear instructions on safe use
- 66% of victims had not been trained on inspecting ladders for defects
- 61% of victims were using a ladder that had not been secured at the top
- 57% of victims were holding objects while climbing or descending
- 53% of victims were using a ladder that had not been secured at the bottom
- 30% of victims had shoes that were either wet, greasy, or oily
Stairways can also cause serious accidents when a worker slips, trips, and falls. To counteract this danger, they should be kept free of all dangerous objects, debris, and material at all times. Sairways should have at least one handrail as well.
Work in trenches is extremely dangerous as cave-ins occur all too frequently. According to BLS data, 13 workers died from a trench or excavation collapse in 2014 alone—in general, events where workers were caught under collapsing structures caused a total of 74 deaths that year. The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (or NIOSH) researchers found that there is an average of 50+ fatalities every year from accidents of this kind, with 68 percent of these accidents occurring in companies who have less than 50 total workers.
Solutions proposed by OSHA to reduce trenching accidents include:
- Never allowing a worker to enter into an unprotected trench
- Always using a protective system for trenches at least a foot deep
- Using a registered professional engineer to design trenches deeper than 20 feet
- Using protective systems such as sloping, shoring, and shielding
- Providing an exit no more than 25 feet apart in the trench
One of the most common sources of accidents on construction sites is the equipment used by workers. From cranes to forklifts, construction workers often need to use heavy equipment to get the job done. When this equipment is not properly maintained, inspected, or used, resulting accidents can be severe. We have handled numerous cases where a client's life was altered because an operator was poorly trained.
For example, dangerous and even deadly accidents occur when a crane's boom comes into contact with a power line, or when a worker is hit by a crane's swing radius. Similarly, forklifts can also cause serious injuries, with OSHA reporting that more than 95,000 construction workers suffer an injury in a forklift-related accident every year.
The following are solutions to help reduce forklift accidents:
- All operators should be properly trained and certified
- No one under the age of 18 should be permitted to operate a forklift
- No modifications should be made to a forklift without written approval from the manufacturer
- All forklifts should be properly examined for defects on a regular basis
- Forklifts should not be driven at speeds greater than 5 mph—slower when congested or slippery
- Forklifts should be operated in a safe manner with no horseplay or stunts
- Forklifts should be operated with loads elevated high off of the ground
Construction workers are often asked to work with chemicals that pose serious health risks, such as irritation, flammability, corrosion, and more. OSHA has a stringent Hazard Communication Standard that spreads the proper information about these dangerous chemicals. When these standards are not followed, workers can be left to work with harmful chemicals unknowingly. This can cause personal injuries such as burns and respiratory problems, and also cause large-scale accidents such as fires and explosions.
OSHA recommends the following to reduce injuries caused by failures in hazard communications:
- Each chemical should have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that is easily accessible
- All employees should be trained on how to read and use the MSDS
- Employees should be trained about the risks of all chemicals being used
- Spill clean-up kits should be provided wherever chemicals are stored
- Employees should be trained on the clean up of spills and provided with clear instructions
Have You or a Loved One Been Injured in a Construction Accident?
If you or someone you care about has been endangered by hazards on a construction site, you should not hesitate to retain a skilled Houston construction accident lawyer. At Arnold & Itkin, our workplace accident lawyers are passionate about justice, doing everything we can to help our clients maximize their recovery following a serious injury. Our lawyers have won billions of dollars for clients all over the United States.
Learn more about our firm or contact us to schedule a free, confidential case consultation.