The construction business has always come along with the understanding there is a risk. Today, despite all the safety equipment and protocols followed, significant injury and even death are still an occupational hazard for the construction industry.
Per the Centers for Disease Control, more than 9 percent of the over 3 million injuries counted in 2009 occurred in construction. For every 100 construction workers, four are injured annually, and 22 percent of those injuries nationwide involved a fall, for example.
More recent statistics from 2014 tracked almost 4,400 deaths in work-related deaths, and construction made up 20 percent of those fatalities. Falls, being struck, electrocution, and crushing were common situations in these tragedies. Here are the five most common construction site accidents that lead to injury. A commonality in many is that they can be prevented.
1. Scaffolding Not Properly Erected
Scaffolding has been one of the oldest tools for building and structure construction. However, scaffolding is only as good as the connection points that keep it together.
A scaffolding collapse can seriously injure and kill multiple workers very quickly. In 2009, 54 fatalities were due to bad scaffolding connections and improper staging. In more than two-thirds of the cases, it was the walkway plank or vertical support that gave way under load.
OSHA requirements are very extensive with regards to precautions to take in setting up and maintaining scaffolding, which should make this type of accident avoidable.
2. Trench or Ground Cavity Collapses
Construction often involves digging under the ground layer, which means being exposed to a cavity wall or tunnel collapse risks. The proper protections involve heavy emphasis on side walls with bracing before anyone is allowed to go inside the cavity.
Wood walls and bracing can take an immense amount of pressure before breaking, it’s a commonly used form of protection. However, specific procedures have to be followed, and personnel regularly need to have harnessing to ensure quick recovery to pull a worker out if buried or covered.
3. Falling on Ladders and Stairways
In 2014, 359 were associated with falls. Because the human body can pick up tremendous speed with gravity in only a few feet, a short fall of a story or more can be critical or fatal, depending how one impacts the ground.
A fall can happen from a roof, scaffold, ladder, or any other height. It often occurs when transitioning from one level to another as well. One of the simplest preventative measures is a harness clipped to an anchor point when working or moving around high up. While a worker may get pulled muscles, a harness can keep him alive.
4. Crane Injuries
Heavy machinery has always been a major risk, especially due to the fact that operators can’t always see everything they need to when moving those machines. Cranes are particularly problematic because they are often lifting heavy material high in the air.
When cables snap or material shifts, bad things happen to anything or anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way. Safeguards, situational awareness, and clearance with spotters and safety officers are all necessary for avoiding crane injuries, but they are still a source of accidents every year.
5. Chemical Hazards
Modern construction involves a number of harsh and toxic chemicals. Lead alone is a major problem, aggregating in the body if there is continued exposure. Chronic dust exposure has also been a major culprit of respiratory disease and fatalities, particularly with heavy metals or asbestos.
Today many workers wear gas masks and safety breathing gear, but silica from sand based materials is still a major problem.
While there are required workers compensation programs to pay for injuries these primarily only address the immediate needs and often don’t go far enough for rehabilitation and full recovery.
If you or someone you know has been injured or affected by a construction site accident, get legal help to project your full recovery. An experienced attorney can defend your rights and help you get the support you need.