How to Defeat OSHA’s “Fatal Four” and Protect Your Construction Workforce

September 25, 2019 - minute read

construction and safetyWhile progress has been made in the prevention of worksite injuries and fatalities, the numbers don’t lie. According to a recent study, 27% of construction workers worry about being injured on a daily basis. What’s even more concerning is how real the danger actually is. In 2017, one in five of all workplace fatalities occurred within the construction industry.

Luckily, there are actionable steps you can take to help combat the occurrence of worksite incidents, as well as practical, long-term approaches for successful Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance. Here are solutions to combat OSHA’s “fatal four” accidents, as well as vital solutions for promoting worker safety.  

OSHA’s “Fatal Four”

If you’re ready to take your safety measures to the next level, you’ll need to address OSHA’s “fatal four” accidents. These accidents are most commonly defined as: “falls”, “struck by object”, “electrocution”, and “caught-in-between.” These four causes contributed to 60% of construction-related deaths in 2017. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, eliminating the Fatal Four could save a minimum of 582 workers’ lives in the U.S. each year.

“Falls”

Falls make up the largest portion of the Fatal Four, contributing to 39% of deaths in 2017 and making them the one of the hardest problems to tackle.

With construction workers constantly climbing ladders, stairways, and scaffolding, there are a variety of precautionary measures you can take to prevent fall-related injuries. These includes providing harnesses, toe rails, and handrails, as well as requiring personal protective gear. It also means making sure ladders are placed on stable surfaces and monitoring the use of bindings for scaffolding. No matter how minimal a certain height may seem, investing in fall protection gear and training will do wonders for preventing unnecessary accidents.    

“Struck by Object”

This “fatal four” category most commonly refers to flying objects, debris, and suspended or rolling loads striking a member of your workforce. It is one of the hardest scenarios to prevent, as workers are often caught off-guard and don’t have time to react.

Wearing protective gear is absolutely key in combatting this type of accident. OSHA mandates that every worker on your worksite wear a hard hat at all times. This not only prevents serious injuries but helps machine operators identify workers in the vicinity.  In the case of using power tools, make sure your workers are wearing appropriate face masks, eyewear, and hand protection to protect against incoming hazards.  

“Electrocution”

Construction workers are at incredibly high risks of electrocution. From handling live wires and circuits to powerlines and ill-placed metal equipment, pre-planning projects and mandating training with electrical specialist are necessary to protect your workers.

As a baseline, subjects to include in your workers’ education and regular re-training include: arc flashes, de-energizing, lockout and tagout standards, personal protective equipment, and testing before touching circuit protocols.

“Caught-In-Between”

When OSHA refers to “caught-in-between” accidents, they’re referring to construction workers being fatally caught between, compressed, or crushed by powerful equipment and structures. These injuries typically occur when equipment rolls or shifts or has been left unattended.

Trained equipment operators are the only workers who should be using major machinery. It’s similarly critical that your workforce understand the location of crush points and moving parts that could pull them in, the direction that high-risk mechanisms are moving in, and how to alert operators and crew members to shut down machines or deploy safety devices like machine guards in the case of an emergency.

Additional Safety Solutions

Safety tips are endless. Implementing these changes as part of your standard safety policy can be a challenge, but the only way to a safe construction site is one deliberate step at a time. In addition to your “fatal four” prevention, consider these compliance-oriented steps as well:

  • Hold daily safety meetings to review proper techniques or safety protocols
  • Conduct operations during daylight hours to avoid visibility problems or the risk of tired, less-alert employees
  • Provide regular breaks to ensure your workers are properly rested and have had the necessary food and water to maintain optimal performance
  • Create and enforce strict drug and alcohol policies. Impose strict consequences for being under the influence while on the job to eliminate related accidents.
  • Use proper lockout/tagout procedures when working on machines or equipment to prevent surprise startups
  • Pay attention to workers’ clothing and appearance to prevent loose shirts, jewelry, and long hair from getting caught in moving machines

EPAY Systems Has Your Back

At EPAY, we take the safety of your workforce very seriously. Our time clocks provide safety attestation questions, requiring each of your employees to answer if they’ve had a safe work day. If there’s been an accident, you’ll be advised immediately so you can conduct proper safety inspections, satisfy workers comp requests, and manage the needs of your injured employee. If not, you’ll be able to disprove false accusations and avoid costly lawsuits. Ready to see these features in action? Check out our 2-Minute Tour!

For more information on how to make safety a priority for your construction workforce, check out our blog post, “Make Workforce Safety Part of Your Company Culture.” 

Filed Under: Time Tracking Workforce Management Construction OSHA