Construction sites are considered the most potentially hazardous and accident-prone parts of any working environment. Excessive exposure to these construction site hazards exposes workers to injury and possible death. To prevent this, a company should know how to identify and be aware of all possible dangers that can be encountered during normal business operations. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) wants every employee to have sound knowledge of their susceptibility to harm or injury in the workplace.
Listed below are the top six construction site hazards identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
- Electrical- Electricity is one of the greatest hazards to people either at home or at work. Power line workers, electricians and electrical engineers work continuously with electricity and can face exposure to this hazard on a daily basis. At the construction site, the best way to prevent this kind of hazard is for the power line workers to be a safe working distance away from the power lines. Other precautionary measures includes guarding and insulating of the vehicle from which they might work. This would help prevent electrical hazards from injuring them while working.
- Excavation and Trenching - OSHA has recognized excavation and trenching as the most hazardous construction site operation. From the year 2000 to 2006, the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics (USBLS) recorded 271 worker fatalities in trenching and cave-ins. These hazards are preventable yet injuries related to these hazards are still happening. Both employer and employee must follow safety standards and use protective equipment to minimize hazards while trenching and excavating.
- Falls - Falling from scaffolding over six feet or a fixed ladder over twenty feet is the most dangerous and common construction site hazard. Falling from high places such as a ladder, scaffolding and roofs account for more than fifty percent of the accidents that happen at the workplace. The usual cause of this incident is slipping, tripping and using unstable ladders. There are thousands of reasons for fall hazards and to eliminate such risks, employers must have a fall protection program as part of any overall workplace safety and health program. Workers should be trained to identify and evaluate fall hazards and be fully aware of how to control exposure to such risks as well as know how to use fall protection equipment properly.
- Stairways and Ladder - According to OSHA's construction safety and health standards, stairways and ladders are major sources of injuries and fatalities among construction workers. These recorded injuries are serious enough to put a worker out on sick leave. OSHA registered approximately 24,882 injuries and 36 fatalities yearly that are related to falling from stairways and ladders used at the construction site. To prevent such accidents and injuries, employers and employee must comply with OSHA's general rule for the safe use of ladders and stairways.
- Scaffolding - Every year, approximately 60 workers die by falling from scaffolding; one out of five construction site falls are fatal. The most potential risk of scaffolding is due to moving scaffold components; scaffold failure related to damage to its components; loss of the load; being struck by suspended materials; electrical shock; and improper set-up. Construction workers who assemble and dismantle scaffolding and work platforms at construction sites face the risk of serious injuries due to falls. The scaffolding hazard is addressed by stated OSHA standards. They give specific requirements for the maximum load, when to use scaffolding, bracing and the use of guardrails.
- Heavy Construction Equipment - Approximately 100 construction site workers die each year due to heavy construction equipment. The main causes of such accidents includes: ground workers struck when a vehicle is backing up or changing direction; equipment rollovers that injure the operator; mechanics run over when brakes are not properly set; and ground workers crushed by falling equipment from backhoes, buckets, and other moving construction vehicles. To prevent this kind of risk, workers should follow all construction safety guidelines necessary to eliminate the exposure to such injuries and accidents.
Safety risks on construction site are unavoidable; however, these can be prevented if workers are instructed on how to identify the hazards that might be present at the work-site. The employer must establish proper safety standards that meet the maximum requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This will ensure that workers will have a safe working environment during normal operation.
This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of construction site risks; however, these top six items are certainly important ones that all construction site employers should be aware of and continually working to eliminate them from happening.