According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly three million nonfatal injuries happened in the workplace in 2014. Even more alarming, 4,821 people lost their lives on the job the same year. And nearly 1,000 of those fatalities happened on a construction site. Actually, construction claims the highest number of injuries and fatalities of all occupations.
We’ve already shed some light on best practices in project management, so now we thought it would be a good time to illustrate the importance of best practices for a safe and accident-free jobsite. Contractors, subcontractors, and construction companies are all held liable in cases of worker fatalities, regardless of who’s at fault.
Here are some of the most common ways workers get hurt on a jobsite (as well as the most frequent OSHA citations), plus some industry tips for protecting your crew from accidents.
Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in construction, accounting for almost 40 percent of worker deaths — more than 200 every year. OSHA issued 7,133 citations for failing to provide fall protection in 2015.
Employers are required by law to protect their workers by providing fall-protection systems on walking and working surfaces six feet and higher. These systems include guardrails, safety net systems, and restraining lanyards or fall-arrest systems. Other precautionary measures for fall protection include toe boards, screens, canopies, and barricades to protect against things like open elevator shafts, wells, pits, and open skylights.
Workers should be properly trained on the use, inspection, and importance of each of these fall-protection systems, especially lanyards and lifelines. Ensure the cord’s length is short enough so that your worker won’t hit the ground nor the floor below, and factor in the worker’s body weight along with the amount of stretch in the cord.
There were 4,492 OSHA citations issued for scaffolding violations in 2015, exposing workers to falls, electrocutions, and falling objects. And since more than 65 percent of construction workers perform work on scaffolding, this is a major concern.
Here are some things to be cautious of:
- Scaffolding must be erected on solid ground, at least 10 feet away from power lines.
- Use of guardrails, midrails, and toe boards should be installed to protect workers on, under, and around scaffolding.
- Workers should never work on scaffolding that’s covered in ice, mud, or water.
- Workers should never exceed the maximum weight limits.
- Never leave tools, equipment, or materials on scaffolding at the end of a shift. Additionally, tools and materials should be hoisted up after the worker has reached their desired height.
- Workers should not climb scaffolding outside the designated access points.
Stairways and ladders
Incorrect ladder choices, failing to properly secure the ladder, and trying to climb a ladder while carrying tools and materials resulted in 2,662 OSHA violations in 2015, not to mention numerous injuries and deaths.
Here are a few tips to prevent ladder accidents:
- Ladders should extend at least three feet above the work surface.
- Tie the ladder to secure points at the top and bottom to keep it from rocking or falling.
- Ladders should have nonconductive side railings if using electrical equipment.
- And, of course, do not carry large tools or materials while climbing.
Eyes, face, and head protection
With a combined score of nearly 2,500 OSHA citations, failing to protect the eyes, face, and head complete our list of the most common jobsite accidents.
Employers must provide workers with safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and respirators to protect against things like flying particles, molten metal, molds, chemicals, liquids, gases, and vapors. Additionally, hard hats must be provided to protect against falling tools and debris, moving construction equipment, and electrical hazards.
Prepare in order to prevent
The best way to prevent jobsite accidents is to prepare for them. Here are some best practices for turning your jobsite into a safer working environment:
- Have more safety training meetings with your crew, especially when laws get updated or new equipment is used.
- Make sure your crew is wearing highly visible clothing or gear.
- Always be aware of overhead obstructions and underground utilities, like electrical and gas lines, sewers, water pipes, and phone lines.
- Use barricades or cordons around the entire swing radius of large machines.
- Machine operators should always use seat belts, even when the cab door is closed.
- Thoroughly train your crew on personal fall-protection equipment, including proper hookups, anchoring, tie-off techniques, as well as inspection and storage.
- Keep your crew hydrated.
Have any jobsite safety tips of your own? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook. Or to see how Viewpoint’s scalable software, apps, and cloud-based platforms can help your next project, reach out to us anytime.