Construction workers often face, to put it lightly, riskier than average workplaces. Heavy equipment, great heights, falling debris – the potential hazards go on. Even with safety precautions in place, construction sites will never be completely free of risks. As employers, it’s our job to take particular care to mitigate these dangers to make the construction site safe as possible for workers so they can do their jobs. To this end, today we’re going to look at some of the most common injuries employees experience in the construction industry and what we can do to prevent them.
Injuries to Watch for (And How to Prevent Them)
Construction sites are full of potential dangers. A serious accident is inevitable if you don’t know what to look out for.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Possibly the most common injuries result when workers fall – whether this be from slipping on a wet surface or falling from a great height. Even from a few feet, both of these risk serious injury and death. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these accidents were the leading cause of fatalities between 2015 and 2019 by 37.9 percent.
Fall risks come in many forms. Scaffolding and railing could be improperly mounted or even absent. Uneven and wet surfaces could be unaccounted for. Perhaps ladders are being used improperly on the job site. Workers could even lack basic safety equipment such as secured harnesses when working far above the ground.
To mitigate these dangers, identify wet and uneven surfaces on the job site. Use signage and direct instruction to keep workers informed. Additionally, instruct workers to avoid these areas for nonessential tasks. In terms of scaffolding and railing, conduct regular inspections and ensure they remain secure. Falls are more likely if these safety measures are either missing or loose. And never forget to ensure workers are supplied with necessary safety equipment as well as educated on the proper use of said equipment.
Workers aren’t the only thing you need to worry about falling. Tools, building materials, and more can cause serious harm if they land on a person. All of which are relatively common on a construction site.
To avoid injuries from falling debris, ensure that workers have access to and wear hard hats whenever they’re on-site. This will help mitigate injuries to the head. However, it’s important to remember this is a precaution, not a solution. Hard hats can only do so much and only protect a small part of the body.
As such, we again see the importance of signage and communication in the workplace. Always inform workers where there are dangers of falling debris. Additionally, establish safety procedures to ensure that an area is clear before dumping materials at height.
Construction sites often see a plethora of exposed wiring and unfinished electrical systems. Both are a source of risk for electrocution.
To avoid electrocution on the job site, ensure that the wiring is grounded when possible. Provide workers that will be working with and around live wires with relevant arc-rated PPE.
Exposure to Extreme Temperatures
Construction is a hard job. That’s no secret. Workers often see long hours exposed to the elements – from extreme heat to extreme cold. Both are significant risk factors.
In terms of extreme heat or humidity, workers are at risk of dehydration and heat stroke. Hydration and frequent breaks in a cool area are essential. Established a dedicated break area on-site where workers can escape the heat with plenty of water on hand. Additionally, ensure that all foremen or other overseers understand and recognize the symptoms of heat stroke.
On the other end, in extreme cold, similar steps can be taken. Like heat, workers need regular breaks from the cold. Numbing of the hands and frostbite both represent serious dangers to worker health. As such, they require warm work attire and a warm break area to escape the cold. This space can take the form of a vehicle or dedicated warming tent.
Construction workers spend a great deal of their time moving heavy loads and other physically demanding tasks. As such, they are at particular risk of overexertion. Overexertion, in turn, can lead to accidents ranging from fainting to heart attacks to human error. All of which can cause serious harm.
As such, regular breaks are necessary. Workers need time to recover. However, construction is a field where these things can be culturally frowned upon. It is our responsibility as employers to build a company culture where breaks are recognized for their importance and valued for the role they play in both productivity and worker health.