Curtailing Construction’s Fatal Four: Countering Caught-In Injury Incidents

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Courtesy of Intelex Technologies Inc.

The “Fatal Four” of construction are falls, electrocutions, workers being caught in or between objects, and worker being struck by objects. In the United States, these hazards consistently account for over 50% of construction worker deaths annually. This translates into the deaths of over 899 workers on a yearly basis. In our four part blog post series, we will examine each hazard and highlight the steps companies are taking to not only ensure compliance with workplace legislation but create a proactive, performance-driven culture to transform their organization.

The Human Cost of Caught-In Injuries

Caught-in/between injuries kill 39 workers annually. This figure includes construction workers killed when crushed between equipment, debris, or other objects. The key difference between caught-in incidents and struck-by incidents is that struck-by deaths occur as a result of impact with an object, caught-in deaths are the result of crushing between two objects.

Reducing Caught-In Machine Injuries Requires Training

Workers are often caught-in machinery that has unguarded moving parts. During maintenance cycles for example, many employees improperly lockout (power down) equipment, severely increasing the risk they will be caught-in one of its moving parts. Companies can prevent caught-in incidents that involve machinery by ensuring all workers receive proper lockout-tagout training, and also by ensuring that every worker’s lock and tag can only be removed by them.

Construction and Excavation: Unearthing Hazards Before They Do Harm

According to OSHA, workers in the excavation sections of construction sites are to be killed when compared to workers performing other types of construction work. Cave-ins are especially dangerous since debris can crush workers if the excavation site has not been properly evaluated. Cave-ins occur when soil is unstable, when there is a great deal of vibration from trucks or other machinery, when there is too much weight close to the sides of the excavation, when there is water in the excavation, and/or when there are drastic changes in the weather at the site.

The good news is that many of the causes of cave-ins can be prevented well before workers are put in harm’s way. By conducting a thorough environmental analysis of sites before construction work begins, a company can not only ensure its workers’ safety, but also prevent costly cave-ins and delays. Problems such as the removal of excavated material can be identified well before they occur by considering how to establish a proper waste removal system. If such a system is logistically unfeasible, then the company can choose another site altogether without having sunk significant cost into the project.

Cutting Caught-In Injuries Mean Cutting Costs

Caught-in injuries can be frightening, but the likelihood of injury can be diminished with enough preparation and organization. These are tasks which companies must embrace if they are truly intent on protecting their people.

By complying with basic regulations and working up from there to implement stronger safety features, companies can assure their workers’ well-being while also safeguarding and improving their reputation in the marketplace. As a company moves beyond compliance to transforming its internal safety processes, it will avoid OSHA fines, worker’s compensation, and work stoppage costs which could amount to over $1 million in savings.

Why We Wrote About the Fatal Four

Falls from height, electrocutions, struck-by, and caught-in injuries are construction’s Fatal Four because they kill almost 450 people annually. These deaths are largely preventable. Tragic enough on their own, these deaths impact company morale, reputation, and profit all at once. Preventing these deaths and avoiding these other consequences requires systems that can easily manage complexity. This means moving past pen and paper systems and spreadsheets to a software solution that can truly protect your workers.

Complying with OSHA rules is a first step, but the range of benefits goes well beyond avoiding fines. The cost of only being compliant is high in the sense that your company is losing out on reputational benefits that have an impact on you bottom line. To learn more about how your firm can use safety to improve its goodwill, watch our free, 30-minute webinar, “5 Essential Steps for Managing Safety to Win Contracts in Construction”.

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