Dangers in Construction: How Employers Can Manage Risks

Dangers in Construction: How Employers Can Manage Risks

We all know that construction is a risky industry to work in. But it might be deadlier than you think. According to a recent report by AdvisorSmith, twelve of the 25 deadliest jobs in America are in the construction industry. That’s despite the fact that the industry has already adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward unsafe working conditions.

Indeed, deaths in construction have been rising in recent years. There were 4,821 fatalities in 2014, then 5,250 in 2018, a 9% increase. If you’re about to run a construction company, you may find yourself facing legal risks. After all, even with safety measures in place, your workers would still be exposed to dangerous conditions.

To mitigate the safety risks in their jobs, your policies and protocols should not just be strong but planned with real-life scenarios in mind. That said, start by rounding up statistical data and identifying the risks in each deadly job in construction.

The “Fatal Four” in Construction

An infographic from law firm Wilson Kehoe Winingham LLC showed the “fatal four” in construction, which are:

  • Falls: 36.9% of deaths
  • Struck by object: 10.3% of deaths
  • Electrocutions: 8.9% of deaths
  • Caught between objects: 2.6% of deaths

The following occupations had the greatest number of documented fatal injuries:

  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Roofers
  • First-line Supervisors
  • Construction laborers

The risk factors for fatal injuries included violations of OSHA standards regarding:

  • Fall protection
  • Ladders
  • Scaffolding
  • Electrical and wiring methods
  • Respiratory protection
  • Powered industrial trucks
  • Lockout/tagout
  • Machine guarding
  • Electrical and general requirements
  • Hazard communications

Reducing Risks

Construction accidents are entirely avoidable, though the risks are inherent. Consider these strategies to minimize the odds of accidents on site:

  • Conduct Daily Safety Meetings

Even if all construction workers have been trained in safety, it’s imperative to remind them of your safety policies daily. Besides, working conditions can change depending on the project. A high-rise building, for example, could be a lot more dangerous than a two-story home.

Moreover, daily meetings allow workers who may have specific concerns to speak. A welder, for instance, may not be at risk of a fatal injury but rather of eye damage, burns, electrical shocks, cuts, and injury to their toes and fingers. By hearing this out, you can assess your engineering controls, work practices, and the personal protective equipment (PPE) you provide. A welder must have safety goggles, an auto-dimming helmet, and gloves, which they should keep on even as they clean the stainless steel after welding. Following that simple protocol could avoid most welding accidents.

  • Reduce Nighttime Work

Construction doesn’t have to occur 24/7. If conditions make the night shift more feasible, limit work to low-risk areas. Nighttime work isn’t ideal for construction because people tend to be less alert during late hours, and it doesn’t help that visibility is lower at night.

  • Allow Regular Breaks

Though a construction project should be completed as fast as possible, it shouldn’t cost the workers’ safety or lives. So enforce more frequent breaks to ensure that all workers are in good condition. This will increase their productivity as well, allowing the project to progress quickly with minimal risks.

  • Do Warm-ups or Calisthenic Exercises

Encourage project managers or foremen to lead warm-ups or calisthenic exercises as they start another workday. This keeps the body energized and agile, preventing muscle strain during heavy work.

  • Encourage Healthy Eating

It’s not uncommon for construction workers to skip meals, smoke, or snack on unhealthy food. These practices affect their ability to perform their tasks, even if muscle memory serves them well. In time, their unhealthy habits are going to take a toll and increase their risks for injury.

Hence, be aware of your workers’ diets, and conduct training on health. This will educate them about the importance of hydration, proper nutrition, and proper rest.

Handling Accidents

Sometimes, accidents can still happen, even with strong policies in place. The key is to ensure that those accidents would be non-fatal or permanently disabling.

If a worker gets hurt, a pre-planned procedure must take place immediately. For example, if a roofer slips and falls, another worker should carefully check for injuries while another one calls 911. It’s essential to give an injured worker immediate medical attention, even if the accident doesn’t look serious. After all, some concussions only take effect after a few hours or days. It’s best to let a medical worker confirm if the worker is safe before letting them get back to work.

Every worker should also be trained on how to stop electrocutions and fix machine failures. These accidents can be instantly fatal, so workers should know how to recognize signs of imminent danger from their equipment.

It may be exhausting to conduct safety checks and meetings every day, but the workers’ well-being should be prioritized over the project in construction. After all, without the workers, a project can’t progress.

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