How Can Construction Workers Limit Their Exposure To The “Fatal Four”
There are risks that come with any job, but especially when working on large construction sites where there are tools, electrical equipment, and heavy machinery to consider. Construction workers are particularly vulnerable to many hazardous situations, including the four leading causes of fatalities in the business, known as the “fatal four.”
What Is The Fatal Four?
The four leading causes of construction site fatalities identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are as follows:
- Falls: Falls are the primary cause of fatalities in the construction industry. These accidents were responsible for more than one in three deaths in 2019 (36.4%). Falls often occur due to scaffolds that are not erected or used correctly. As a result, the support can give out, workers may slip, or be struck by a falling object, etc. When workers survive a fall, they often face life-changing personal injuries and permanent disabilities.
- Electrocutions: Electrocutions are the second most common cause of construction fatalities (7.2%). Common causes include workers coming into contact with live wires, which can occur in circuit breakers, control panels, transformers, improperly used extension cords, light fixtures, or underground cabling. This can happen if power sources are not shut off before work is performed. If electrocution is not fatal, workers can suffer severe burns or even paralysis.
- Struck by an Object: Injuries caused by being struck by an object are the third leading cause of construction worker fatalities (15.4%). These accidents often happen when:
- An object, such as debris, falls from a work site above a worker.
- An object is swinging—for example, materials suspended from a crane.
- There are flying objects—for instance, from a nail gun discharge or tools being thrown.
- A rolling object collides with a worker, such as a vehicle or heavy equipment.
- Caught-in/Between: The last type of “fatal four” accident, responsible for 5.4% of fatalities, is when workers get caught in or between objects. A body part or the worker can become trapped, crushed, compressed, squeezed, or pinched between two or more things. These accidents often occur when loose clothing gets caught in moving parts, if a safety guard is missing or has been intentionally removed, or if there is a cave in from an unprotected trench.
How Can I Limit Exposure to the Fatal Four?
The first step to increase worker safety is for employers to educate their team on hazards that lead to the fatal four and minimizing those risks.
To prevent falls, employers should supply workers with safety gear and fall prevention equipment, such as safety harnesses, handrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, perimeter protection, covered and secure floor openings, etc.
To avoid electrocutions, employers can use an assured equipment grounding conductor program to ensure the safety of temporary power cord sets (extension cords). In addition, detailed records of inspections and tests should be kept to make sure the ground wire is electrically continuous from the source to the equipment being used.
Workers who lack training or experience with heavy machinery and equipment are often to blame for “struck by an object” accidents. For instance, they may forget to use a parking brake or reverse alarms on a vehicle, job site materials may not be adequately secured, materials may be lifted and swung in the wrong direction, etc. Therefore, employers should provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), warn workers of and limit access to areas with a higher risk of a struck-by accident.
Workers should also receive training on wearing seatbelts or safety restraints, as well as how to not place themselves between an immovable object such as a wall and equipment or heavy machinery.