Construction site accidents are responsible for numerous injuries and deaths each year. While construction site accidents vary in severity, the following article discusses the four most common types that result in the most serious injuries, including death.
Electrical Accidents – Perhaps the most common accident occurs because of contact with power lines. Overhead and buried power lines at a construction site are very hazardous because they carry extremely high voltage. Electrocution is not the only injury that can occur. Burns and falls from elevation are also potential risks.
Another common cause of electrical accidents is the inappropriate use of electrical equipment, such as using equipment outdoors when the label clearly indicates indoor use. Another misuse is cords or tools with worn insulation or exposed wires.
Falls – Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. In fact, falls from elevations account for one-third of all deaths in construction. Falls most commonly occur in the following situations:
- unprotected sides and floor holes without safety net or personal fall arrest systems;
- improper scaffold construction;
- unguarded protruding steel rebars, whereby the fall results in impalement;
- misuse of portable ladders, such as not positioning and securing the ladder.
Washington State regulations mandate that a “competent person” must supervise the erection of scaffolds. Despite this regulation, scaffolding accidents still occur when workers attempt to access a scaffold through unsafe methods and fall.
- Struck-By Accidents – Struck-by objects are another leading cause of construction-related deaths. About 75% of struck-by fatalities involve heavy equipment, such as trucks or cranes. One in four struck-by vehicle deaths involve construction workers. Forklift accidents are also largely responsible for worker deaths each year in Washington State. Common accidents involve not only vehicles, but also falling and flying objects. This type of accident is likely to occur when workers are beneath cranes or scaffolds or when hit by flying particles or nails when using power tools.
Trenching and Excavation Accidents – Working in trenches and performing excavations are perhaps the most dangerous jobs in construction work. The statistics seem to support this observation with the fatality rate for excavation work being 112% higher than the rate for general construction. In Washington State, collapsed excavation walls or trenches kill an average of two workers per year. Soil weights 2000-3000 lbs. per yard, causing death by asphyxiation or drowning.
Evacuated material piled too high or too close to the edge of a trench or excavation site is an accident waiting to happen. The piles can roll back on top of workers or cause a cave-in.
Even entry and exits from trenches or excavations are extremely dangerous if no ladders, stairways or ramps are in place. For this reason and the reasons set forth above, regular inspections of trenches and excavations are necessary to avoid potential hazardous conditions.
Construction accidents happen every day, as well as in cities and states across the nation. Like every other American worker, construction employees are entitled to a hazard-free work environment. The reality, though, is that the very nature of construction work is hazardous.