The Construction Industry is Risky Business
Falls are a Leading Cause of Injury and Fatality in the Construction Industry
Falls are a common cause of workplace injury for construction workers. It is the nature of the construction industry that workers are working on structures that are in various stages of completion. So, it is common for workers to be unprotected by walls, floors or other structures that we rely upon to keep us safe.
That does not, however, destine construction workers to catastrophic falls. There are safety measures which can be taken and which OSHA requires to protect construction workers from fall related injuries and fatalities. Guardrail systems, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems and, proper training can all greatly reduce the risks associated with construction work.
It is also important for scaffolding to be properly installed and properly used. Scaffolding is necessary to allow workers to safely work above ground level. The scaffold must be large enough to safely accommodate both the construction worker and his or her equipment. It must be properly installed and guardrails must be in place to protect the workers. Workers must be trained on how to safely access the scaffold so that injuries do not occur.
Portable ladders can also result in workplace injuries. Ladders must be in good condition and workers must understand their weight and height restrictions so that they can be safely and properly used.
Falls are common, but not inevitable, in the construction industry. Work sites that comply with OSHA guidelines have a greater chance of avoiding these types of serious accidents.
It may be that in modern times we take electricity for granted. It is part of our everyday lives. Few of us can imagine working without the lights, computers or power tools that electricity makes possible. However, that does not mean that electricity is not dangerous.
Construction workers are at particular risk for getting hurt from electricity. Often, their work takes them in close proximity to electrical lines, wires or outlets. Overhead power lines, for example, can be particularly dangerous. They are often unprotected and have high voltages. Construction equipment can hit the wires resulting in numerous risks that include injuries and fatalities. OSHA recommends that workers assume that all power lines are active and dangerous and that workers keep at least a ten foot clearance between their workspace and overhead wires.
Further, while electricity is important on construction sites, it presents its own hazards. Normal wear and tear at a construction site can result in electric wires that are broken or exposed and lack ground fault protection. This can result in serious injury, fires, explosions and even death for construction workers.
Equipment that is improperly used or extension cords that are being used beyond their recommended capabilities can also present dangers.
It is important that both supervisors and construction workers understand the dangers of electricity and respect the risks associated with it. They should take all necessary precautions to make sure that they do not come into contact with electric wires or other forms of live electricity and make sure that all equipment is properly used and maintained so that they can avoid catastrophic accidents on the job site.
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Keeping Highway Work Zones Safe
As you approach a highway work zone, you likely slow down, obey the reduced speed limit and think about the safety of the construction workers who are working to improve the roadways. That is important. It saves lives. However, construction workers should be aware that they are as likely to be hit by a construction vehicle on the jobsite as they are from passing traffic on the roadway.
Workers can be injured or killed when they are hit by trucks or construction equipment. Since this was such a common cause of workplace injury and fatality during the 1990s the government developed injury prevention measures to try and lower the risk of injury and death.
Those measures include assigning a traffic control supervisor to the workplace to coordinate the movement of motor vehicles, including construction equipment. Vehicle speed should be properly monitored and vehicles should be coordinated as much as possible.
It is hard to make roadway construction sites a closed environment. There are many variables including the layout of the road, the physical terrain and weather conditions that can influence how traffic moves and how easy it is to avoid a tragic accident. All of those conditions should be considered and taken into account when developing a work site safety plan and taking precautions to prevent motor vehicle accidents on highway construction sites.
Multiple Employers on a Single Job Site
Often, a single construction site has more than one employer responsible for overseeing the completion of the project. A general contractor may be present who then subcontracts work to an architectural firm, a plumbing business and drywall experts. Each of those subcontractors may hire their own employees to get the job done. This means that a single job site has multiple employers.
From time to time, one employer, such as the plumbing business, may create a problem that results in dangerous work conditions and OSHA violations. Often, the questions then become (1) who is responsible for fixing the problem and (2) who is responsible if an employee gets hurts, especially if it is an employee of a different subcontractor?
OSHA makes clear that if an employer creates, exposes, corrects or controls a certain aspect of the job violation then that employer is responsible for any resulting OSHA citations if the employer does not fix the problem according to OSHA guidelines. This may or may not mean that the employer is responsible for all injuries that result from the violation.
It is important for all employers who work together on a construction job site to remember the importance of working together as a team and of keeping each other safe. Safety requires the cooperation of every employer and the successful completion of the job requires the same cooperation.