Needing to employ hundreds of thousands of workers in assorted trades, construction is the second largest employer in the U.S. alone – and is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one in five worker deaths last year was in construction, with the leading causes of worker deaths being falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. Otherwise known as the "Fatal or Focus Four", these hazards were responsible for more than half of construction worker deaths in 2013*, BLS reports.
Construction activities present several hazards that can compromise the health and safety of the workers, making it imperative to understand and train on the top safety issues to keep workers safe on the job at all times.
Four Life-Saving Lessons
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recognized four construction hazards that are responsible for the majority of financial, physical, and emotional losses in the construction industry. As mentioned above, OSHA’s Focus Four Hazards are:
- Fall Hazards
- Caught-In-Between Hazards
- Struck-By Hazards
- Electrical Hazards
The Construction Focus Four Module (or Focus Four Hazards) was developed in support of the already existing [OSHA] Construction Outreach Program’s effort to help workers in the construction industry understand the hazards they face and know what their employer’s responsibilities are regarding protecting workers from workplace hazards. The Construction Focus Four Module is required to be included in both the 10-hour and 30-hour OSHA Construction Outreach Training Program classes, and with each focus four hazard, there is an objective for what each student should be able to do at the end of training.
Hazard 1: Fall Hazards
Fall hazards that occur on a jobsite are a severe, chronic problem in the construction industry and are present at most worksites on a daily basis. A fall hazard is anything at a worksite that could cause a worker to lose their balance or lose bodily support and result in a fall; any walking or working surface can be a potential fall hazard.
According to OSHA, falls from heights are the leading cause of fatalities in construction, while falls on the same level are one of the leading causes of injuries. In 2013, falls accounted for 37 percent of all construction fatalities, or about 294 out of 796 total deaths, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Hazard 2: Caught-In or -Between Hazards
According to OSHA, caught-in or -between hazards are defined as injuries that result from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of an object, accounting for 2.6 percent of all construction fatalities in 2013. Some working conditions that especially contribute to caught-in or –between hazards include:
- Unguarded moving machinery
- Equipment that is not locked-out during maintenance
- Unprotected excavations and trenches
- Heavy equipment that causes walls to collapse during demolition
- Working between moving materials and immovable structures, vehicles, or equipment
Hazard 3: Struck-By Hazards
Struck-by injuries are produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment, not to be confused with caught-in or –between hazards. The difference is that for struck-by accidents, the impact alone caused the injury, versus a caught accident where injury resulted from crushing injuries between objects. This hazard accounts for 10.3 percent of all construction fatalities in 2013. To get a better idea, struck-by hazards are categorized as a flying object, falling object, swinging object, or rolling object – such as:
- Crane collapses
- Falling equipment loads
- Faulty overhead power lines
- Non-visible workers
- A blast of compressed air
Hazard 4: Electrocution Hazards
According to OSHA, electrocution results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy, and accounted for 8.9 percent of all construction fatalities in 2013. The top three types of electrocution hazards in construction are contact with overhead power lines, contact with energized sources, and improper use of extension and flexible cords.
An electrical hazard can be defined as a workplace occurrence that exposes workers to the following dangers, as outlined by the acronym BE SAFE found in OSHA’s Electrocution Hazards guide:
- Burns – The most common shock-related injury. Can be one of 3 types: electrical, arc/flash, or thermal contact
- Electrocution – This results when a human is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy
- Shock – Results when the body becomes part of the electrical circuit by entering the body at one point and leaving at another
- Arc Flash/Arc Blast – This is the sudden release of electrical energy through the air when a high-voltage gap exists and there is a breakdown between conductors, giving off thermal radiation (heat) and intense light that can cause burns. Temperatures have been recorded to reach 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit
- Fire – Result from problems with ‘fixed wiring’, such as faulty electrical outlets and old wiring. Fire can also be caused by cord problems, plugs, receptacles, and switches.
- Explosions – Can occur when electricity ignites an explosive mixture of material in the air
Utilizing the Focus Four Hazard training at a construction site is essential to ensure that the proper safety precautions are being taken for worker safety. The problem is not that the hazards and risks are unknown it is that they are very difficult to control in a constantly changing work environment – especially in construction.
By understanding and training on the top four hazards, your workers can better recognize the hazards in their workplace and that knowledge goes a long way in creating a safer work environment.
Stay Safe with Summit
Summit has the safety training you need to stay in compliance and protect your workers against the hazards of OSHA’s Focus Four. Visit the site below for more information.