What Factors Make an Unsafe Construction Workplace?
Injuries occur in every type of workplace across all sectors and occupations. One of the most dangerous industries in America is construction. Approximately one out of every five on-the-job fatal injuries are construction workers. What hazards and factors make construction workplaces especially dangerous and unsafe?
Hazards on a Construction Site
Construction accidents occur at a higher rate than other industries due to the sheer number of potential hazards that can be found on a construction site. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), here are some of the most common factors that lead to workplace injuries in the construction industry:
- Falls from height
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. On a construction site, there are many situations in which a worker can sustain serious injuries from a fall. Falls from scaffolding, ladders, metal beams, unprotected holes in the floor or wall openings can contribute to a worker’s fall. According to OSHA, fall protection violations are one of the most common citations issued in the construction industry. Body harnesses, guardrails, and safety nets can be used to reduce the risk of serious injury.
- Scaffolding collapses
Improper erection of scaffolding leads to thousands of injuries and dozens of deaths each year in the construction industry. Not only can workers be severely injured from falls, but workers (or pedestrians) on the ground can be struck by falling scaffolds, scaffolding accessories, or equipment. Scaffolding can cause a variety of hazards if used incorrectly, such as in inclement weather, near electrical power lines, or overburdened with gear and equipment.
- Trench collapses
OSHA recognizes trench collapses as one of the most dangerous hazards for construction workers. When an unprotected trench collapses on top of a worker, injuries are often fatal. Deep trenches require specific protective systems to keep workers safe, including proper sloping ratios and soil supports to prevent collapses. Placing spoil piles too close to the trench can also cause a cave-in. Ladders or stairway exits in close proximity to workers in the trench should always be present.
- Poorly maintained or defective equipment
Construction tools and equipment are often dangerous by nature when operating normally. When these tools are defective, damaged, aged, or missing parts, the construction workers that use them are put in danger. Tools and equipment should be inspected for flaws, worn cords, broken pieces, and any other defects that could cause it to malfunction in use. In some cases, when construction equipment malfunctions due to a manufacturer’s defect that occurs on the assembly line or during the shipping process, a claim can be brought against that company.
- Crane accidents
A common sight on a construction site, cranes can create a significant number of hazards to operators and other workers alike. Many injuries caused by cranes are from workers being struck by or crushed by the crane’s load. Damaged wires, chains, and hooks could lead to unsecured loads and catastrophic failure. In addition, there have been many cases of crane booms striking overhead power wires, causing deadly electrocutions.
- Chemical exposure
There are a host of materials and chemicals used in the construction industry that can cause injuries and health issues if handled properly. Burns, respiratory problems, explosions, and fires can occur if harmful chemicals are mishandled. Workers that are tasked to use these potentially dangerous materials should be trained on their uses and their risks and know how to protect themselves and other workers if a spill or misuse occurs. Oftentimes hazardous or toxic chemicals are stored incorrectly or used without protective equipment.
- Transportation accidents
Some construction sites in the United States could be mistaken for a busy city intersection. Large trucks, dump trucks, cement trucks, cranes, forklifts, and other vehicles often traverse work sites. Unfortunately one of the leading causes of workplace accidents is due to a transportation-related accident involving a pedestrian worker. The large size of vehicles and machinery used on construction sites can make it difficult to see where other workers are on the ground.
What can be done to Protect Workers?
Employers in the construction industry are aware of the various hazards present on a work site. Most work injuries and fatalities could be avoided if the appropriate safety measures are followed. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a save work environment for their employees, which includes hiring qualified workers, providing supervision, keeping the work site free of hazards, and training employees to use safety equipment and procedures.
Violations of OSHA guidelines put workers at risk for injury. These rules and procedures are put in place to keep workers safe on the job, and when they are not closely adhered to by employers and employees alike, catastrophic accidents can occur. Companies and businesses that fail to follow OSHA guidelines can receive steep monetary fines.
To learn more about construction accident injuries and fatalities, view our U.S. Construction Accidents Statistics infographic.
Contact an Experienced Construction Injury Attorney
If you have been hurt in a construction accident, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our construction injury lawyers are available 24/7, nights and weekends to take your call and evaluate your claim. We have experience handling a variety of complex work accident cases. Because there are many types of safety problems that can occur in a construction accident, it is vital to speak with an attorney right away so they can examine and investigate the causes of your injuries. Thomas J. Henry has a proven record of achieving record-breaking, multi-million dollar results for injured clients. Don’t wait — call us today for your free case review.