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.
Struc- by an Object Injury Statistics are Striking
Struck-by injuries occur as a result of forcible contact between a worker and an object or piece of equipment. 76 construction workers died as a result of being struck-by objects in 2014.
Struck-by hazards can be categorized into four different groups, with injuries possibly occurring as a result of being struck-by: flying objects, falling objects, swinging objects, and rolling objects.
Flying object hazards occur when something has been thrown, hurled, or otherwise propelled across space. Flying object injuries also cover injuries resulting from accidents involving nail guns or other tools than propel objects.
When an object falls from height and causes injury, the incident is categorized as a falling object hazard. Falling object hazards include cases where the injured person was crushed, pinned, or caught under a falling object. If the load of a crane suddenly detached, and a worker below was injured or killed as a result, then that incident would be attributed to a falling object hazard.
Struck-by swinging hazards occur when mechanically lifted materials are displaced by the wind or shifted from being improperly secured; as the load twists or swings, workers could be struck. A worker unknowingly working in the swing radius of a crane is at severe risk of being injured by a swinging hazard.
Finally, struck-by rolling injuries occur when an object is rolling, sliding, or otherwise moving on the same level as a worker. For example, a worker being struck-by an unmanned rail car at an airport while walking along the track is an incident involving a rolling hazard.
The Difference Safety Can Make
At face value, struck-by injuries appear to be less predictable and less preventable than the other Fatal Four hazards. The good news is that most struck-by injuries can be prevented simply by following proper safety procedures.
Preventing Flying Object Hazards
Flying object hazards can be diminished with proper equipment training and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Properly maintaining equipment is also crucial to diminishing the risk of malfunction and, indirectly, the risk of flying object hazards.
Lessening Falling Object Hazard
A falling object hazard can be lessened by conducting thorough inspections on cranes, cordoning off the areas below work zones and instructing employees in adjacent zones to be especially vigilant. By teaching employees to not work under lifting machinery that is currently being operated, construction companies can dramatically reduce the risk of someone being crushed by virtue of fewer people being in the area.
Eliminating Swinging Object Hazard
Conducting equipment inspections and cordoning off the swing radius should also help to reduce struck-by swinging hazard incidents. Additionally, crane operators should be trained to operate at proper speeds, accounting for higher-than-average wind where necessary. These same measures, combined with posting proper signage designating the swing radius of equipment, also reduce struck-by swinging hazards.
Reducing Rolling Hazards
Finally, rolling hazards can be reduced by training machine operators to be vigilant about workers in their area of operation and also by training workers to be aware about potential rolling hazards. Workers on the ground should also be careful to never assume that a machine operator can see them. Making this assumption should cause workers to be especially careful and take more ownership over their personal safety.
Out of 4,386 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2014, 20.5% were in construction industry, with “struck-by object” fatalities making up 8.1% of this total with 76 recorded fatalities in 2014. Struck-by injuries may appear to happen randomly, but we cannot accept such easy excuses when the safety of our workers is at risk. The fact is that a large majority of these injuries can be prevented. As we’ve previously discussed, the cost savings that can result from safety can be well over $1 million. Put simply, the benefits of compliance are too striking to not take advantage of.