According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 6.5 million Americans work on construction sites, and are at risk for serious injuries. The fatal injury rate of the construction industry is higher than the national average for any other industry. Due to the number of risks faced by construction workers, it isn’t surprising that they are more likely to be injured while on the job. Find out about the top risks that Texas construction workers are exposed to.
Incorrectly erected scaffolding or improper use of scaffolding can create a fall hazard for workers. OSHA estimates that 2.3 million construction workers spend time working on scaffolds, and that about 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities each year could be prevented by enforcing appropriate standards.
Protect workers from scaffold-related accidents:
- The scaffold should be erected on solid, level footing, and should be strong enough to hold 4 times the maximum intended load.
- Scaffolding should only be erected using appropriate supports, and not with unstable objects such as bricks, blocks, or barrels.
- The scaffold should not be moved, erected, dismantled, or altered except under the supervision of a qualified person.
- Scaffolds should be equipped with guardrails, mi-drails, and toeboards
- Scaffold accessories such as braces, brackets, trusses, or ladders that are damaged should be immediately replaced.
- Platforms should be tightly planked with scaffold-grade material.
- A qualified person should inspect the scaffolding before use and re-inspect it when needed.
- Suspension scaffolds should be inspected before each shift and after any event that could affect the structural integrity.
- Workers should be instructed in the dangers of using diagonal braces as fall protection.
- Scaffolds should be accessed using ladders and stairwells.
- Scaffolds should be at least 10 feet from electric power lines.
2. Lack of Fall Protection
Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. Unstable working surfaces, incorrect use of fall protection equipment, and human error can contribute to these accidents. Guard rails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers, and other protections can prevent deaths and injuries from falls.
Tips to Protect Workers from Falls:
- Use aerial lifts of elevated platforms for safer working surfaces.
- Use guardrail systems, toeboards and warning lines, or control line systems to protect workers who are working near the edge of roofs and floors.
- Cover holes with sturdy material.
- Use safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems for all workers who are working off the ground.
Stairways and ladders also put workers at risk for injury. OSHA estimates that more than 24,000 injuries and 30 deaths occur every year due to falls from stairways and ladders. About half of these falls require victims to spend a significant amount of time off work to recover.
Prevent Ladder and Stair Accidents
- Use the correct ladder for the task.
- Inspect the ladder for structural damage, contaminants that can cause slips, and stickers and paint that may be covering damage.
- Use ladders that are long enough to reach the work area.
- Discard or mark damage ladders to avoid use by others.
- Never load ladders beyond the maximum intended load or the manufacturer’s rated capacity.
- Be sure that the user, materials, and tools do not exceed the load rating of the ladder.
- Do not use ladders with metal components near power lines.
- Keep all stairways clear of obstructions and debris.
- Clean up slippery conditions on stairs immediately.
- Install treads that cover the entire step and landing.
- Install sturdy handrails for all stairways.
Trenches can be a fall hazard, but it is also possible that trenches may collapse and trap or crush workers. Trenching deaths are on the rise, according to OSHA. Inappropriately dug trenches, soft soil, and lack of reinforcement can create dangerous conditions.
Tips to Prevent Trenching Accidents:
- Never enter an unprotected trench.
- Always use protective systems for trenches deeper than 3 feet.
- Consult a professional engineer to design protective systems for trenches that are deeper than 20 feet.
- Slope trenches appropriately for the soil, use trench boxes, and supports to protect workers from shifting soil and collapses.
- Provide a way to exit the trench, such as a ladder, every 25 feet.
- Keep soil at least 2 feet back from the edge of the trench to prevent collapses.
- Inspect trenches before use and after events that can increase the danger of trenches, such as rain, vibrations, or excessive surcharge loads.
Cranes can cause significant injury if they are not operated and inspected properly. Cranes require a significant amount of space to operate, and can be difficult to use in cramped construction sites. Death and severe injuries can occur when cranes come into contact with power lines or when moving heavy loads.
Avoid Crane Accidents:
- Check all controls prior to operation.
- Inspect the wire rope, hook, or chains for damage before use.
- Never exceed the crane’s weight limit for loads.
- Raise the load a few inches to check the balance and effectiveness of the brake system.
- Check all rigging prior to use, and do not wrap hoist ropes or chains around the load.
- Always extend outriggers completely.
- Never move a load over other workers.
- Barricade accessible areas within the crane’s swing radius to prevent workers from entering the area.
- Keep cranes at least 10 feet of distance from any overhead electrical lines and be aware of the space above the crane.
6. Hazard Communication
It is important to recognize the hazards of chemical burns, respiratory problems, fires, and explosions. If chemicals are not handled appropriately they can cause injuries or fatal accidents.
Tips to Avoid Chemical Accidents:
- Keep a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for every chemical at the facility.
- Keep the information available to all employees in a language or format that is clearly understood by workers.
- Train employees on the proper use of chemicals and how to read the MSDS.
- Always handle hazardous materials according to the manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
- Train employees on the risks of each chemical.
- Provide adequate spill cleanup kits where chemicals are being used or stored.
- Have a written spill control plan, and post it where it is conspicuous to workers.
- Train employees on how they can protect themselves, clean up spills, and dispose of used materials.
- Provide personal protective equipment and enforce its use for all workers.
- Store all chemicals safely and securely, according to manufacturer instructions.
OSHA estimates that 100 deaths and 95,000 injuries occur each year due to forklifts. Turnover accidents account for a significant number of accidents, but workers can be run over or have loads fall on them as well.
Avoid Forklift Accidents:
- Train and certify all operators to ensure safe use.
- Properly maintain forklifts, including the tires.
- Do not modify or install attachments that can affect the capacity and safe operation of the forklift.
- Examine the forklift for defects or potential hazards before use.
- Follow safe operating procedures for picking up, stacking, moving, and putting down loads.
- Drive safely and slowly to allow for quick stops.
- Never allow stunt driving or horseplay.
- Do not handle loads that are heavier than the capacity of an industrial truck.
- Operators should always wear seatbelts when using forklifts.
- Never travel with an elevated load.
- Ensure the rollover protective cage is sturdy and in place.
- Check that the reverse signal is audible and in good working order.
8. Lack of Head Protection
Head protection can prevent thousands of injuries and can even save lives. Enforcing adequate head protection is an easy way to protect workers from injury. A hard hat can protect against falling objects, bumped heads, and accidental contact with electrical wires.
Preventing construction accidents can save lives, but if you’ve been injured on a construction site, you should seek help from an Austin personal injury attorney. Your lawyer can help you file a claim, gather evidence of liability, and help your document your injuries. If needed, they can help guide you through discussions with insurance agents, settlement negotiations, or even litigation.
At the Law Offices of Vic Feazell, P.C., we are committed to being bold, experienced advocates for our clients. Our team of Austin personal injury attorneys has earned national recognition for our personalized client service and knowledgeable legal advocacy. Contact our offices today for a no-cost, confidential consultation.