Having multiple levels and various types of equipment, tools, walking areas, and workers, a construction site exposes workers to significant risks. Materials hover over a site that has tall structures, and vehicles move in and out of the site. With so much going on at once, workplaces need to pay critical attention to improve falling objects and struck-by training and construction site compliance, and make a concentrated investment in safety.
Construction worker Bradley Jones says that after what he saw on a job site several years ago, he shares that story frequently as a warning to others. “I can’t stress this enough: Check-ins and -outs are important.” Some signs read “Do Not Enter,” and safety sign-ins/outs were required on the job site. A couple of contractors came on the job site and did not follow those directions and instructions.
“My cousin was on the ground helping direct a moving load when a couple of contractors came out to do their thing and accidentally dropped a board on his head. He had a concussion and a brain injury for months. He still has some memory issues and goes to speech therapy.”
The Fatal 4, which are falls, caught-in or between, struck-bys, and electrocution, make up 60% of all deaths in construction. Falling objects and struck-bys are the top two most common sources of fatal and non-fatal injuries in construction, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What can workplaces do to improve construction site safety and prevent worksite injuries or fatalities? Start by helping workers understand and identify common struck-by hazards. According to a recent NIOSH science blog post on struck-by injuries, common non-fatal struck-by injuries come from solid building materials, hand tools, and debris. HVAC mechanics and sheet metal workers are more likely to be struck by these types of items, NIOSH wrote. Another statistic: 40% of workplace deaths in construction occurred from transportation accidents.
Injury Prevention Tactics
Preventing struck-by injuries in construction requires knowing the hazards and finding ways to mitigate them on the job. In construction, the site can change frequently and so can job duties. Here are a few tips to prevent struck-bys:
- Check the site: Safety managers should routinely evaluate the site before work begins and throughout the day. Create a checklist for safety that includes covering the Fatal 4 causes, protections, and responsibilities. This will take precautions even further.
- Tether tools: Tool lanyards and tethers have shock-absorbing cords that can anchor and secure them. These are especially helpful when working from heights to avoid accidental drops.
- Protective equipment: Debris nets and toe boards prevent tools and other items from falling on workers below.
- Personal protective equipment: Hard hats provide head protection, and gloves with special grips can help secure tools and other items.
- Site monitoring: Have workers sign in and out of work sites. Ensure someone is enforcing this protocol for safe working, as well as for emergencies such as fires or earthquakes.
Prevention and protection can significantly reduce falling objects and struck-by hazards in construction. Workers can eliminate the chances for these types of injuries by learning more about their causes, reinforcing safety best practices and compliance responsibilities, attending frequent trainings, and improving communication. Promote a total workplace safety mindset. Like employers, workers should be vigilant about safety and assist with inspections to help address hazard concerns. As a team, embrace proper equipment and place greater attention on communication. Use construction signs and labels to mark tools and equipment, and post job task instructions. Keep emergency communication, fire equipment, eye wash stations, and first-aid stations well-equipped and tidy.