Tips for preventing common worker injuries on construction sites

Construction workers can lower their injury risk by using protective gear, removing fall hazards and using best practices for trenching and electrical work.

Construction ranks as one of the most dangerous industries in North Carolina. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, more fatalities occurred statewide in this industry than any other. Thirty-five lives were lost, and more than 5,000 workers suffered injuries. Given the potential for unreported incidents, the overall injury rate may have been even higher.

Tragically, a substantial number of construction worker injuries and deaths may involve well-known job site hazards that weren't adequately addressed. This makes it critical for workers and employers in Charlotte to understand the measures that can prevent many common types of construction accidents.

Use proper safety equipment

Basic safety equipment can protect against numerous common construction site injuries. Fall arrest systems can prevent fall injuries, which are the top cause of construction deaths, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Helmets, safety glasses and face shields can protect workers from flying or falling objects. The use of brightly colored or reflective clothing can help reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents.

Unfortunately, despite the clear benefits of protective equipment, state data shows that it is not always used on construction sites. Per the North Carolina Department of Labor, lack of fall protection was the most frequently cited construction site violation from October 2013 to September 2014. Lack of head protection, eye protection and face protection also ranked among the five most cited violations.

Mitigate fall hazards

It's crucial for construction workers and their employers to recognize and address hazards that can result in serious or deadly falls. Exposed holes in the floors and walls can leave workers vulnerable to falls, while protruding rebar can increase the likelihood of catastrophic injuries. The incorrect use of ladders and faulty scaffolding construction are also common causes of fall accidents.

Recognize electrical dangers

Numerous best practices can protect construction workers from shock or electrocution, which is one of the four most common causes of construction fatalities. Whenever possible, workers should avoid the following habits:

  • Using equipment and electrical cords for uses that the manufacturer hasn't approved. The adaptation or misuse of electrical equipment may circumvent the equipment's safety features, enhancing the risk of a serious accident.
  • Working in proximity to live power lines. If power to the area hasn't been cut, workers should avoid using equipment that may come into contact with buried or overhead lines.
  • Using equipment that isn't grounded due to wear or poor construction. This can result in a fault current passing through a worker's body and causing serious injuries.

Furthermore, workers should be trained to understand the risks of these practices and employ safer alternatives.

Use excavation best practices

Trenching work introduces a number of risks, including drowning, asphyxiation and cave-ins, that should be reduced through best practices. It is critical that employers install appropriate protective systems, along with egress routes that are reliable and accessible. At least once per day, a professional with expertise in soil analysis and OSHA standards should inspect each trench for hazards. Finally, employees should avoid placing excavated material too close to trenches, as this can lead to collapses.

Handling unavoidable accidents

While these measures can improve safety on construction sites, they might not prevent every accident or injury. Fortunately, workers who have suffered harm in any type of construction accident may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. To better understand their rights, injury victims may benefit from meeting with an attorney to discuss the situation and the availability of compensation.