Of the 203,500 recorded injuries and illnesses suffered by workers in the construction industry in 2016, over 40% of them involved workers missing days away from work. Those 82,760 injuries and illnesses resulted in 22,880 sprains, strains and tears, 13,020 incidences of soreness or pain, 11,880 fractures, and 11,810 cuts, lacerations and punctures.
The median time away from work after suffering an injury or illness on the job in construction is 10 days. Of the 82,760 accident injuries involving days of work missed, only 14.1% involved only one day away from work.
On the other end of the spectrum, 26,010 accident injuries involved 31 days or more away from work, which works out to nearly a third of all accident injuries requiring days away from work. That’s a massive amount of lost productivity due to injuries and illnesses.
In order to better understand and prevent future injuries, we’re going to look at the top sources and events that lead to accident injuries on the construction site and some tips on how to avoid them.
Note: Data is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work.
Top 5 Sources of Construction Accident Injuries or Illnesses
1. Parts and Materials – 16,460 cases in 2016 (up from 14,240 cases in 2015)
Building materials (9,020) were the leading source of construction accident injuries in this category with structural metal materials (2,510), pipes, ducts and tubing (1,950) wood and lumber (2,380) and brick, blocks and structural stone (1,340) being the main culprits.
Fasteners (1,700) like nails and screws were another major source of accident injuries. As were electric parts (1,270) which covered everything from building wiring and switchboards to generators and powerlines to power and extension cords.
- Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hardhats, safety glasses, gloves and steel-toed boots
- Be mindful of your surroundings and those around you when moving materials around the jobsite
- Employ lockout/tagout procedures and depower equipment when not in use or making repairs
2. Worker Motion or Position – 10,500 cases in 2016 (down from 11,010 cases in 2015)
These are self-inflicted accident injuries where the worker has hurt themselves which was caused by the position they were in or by a bodily motion such as walking, climbing, bending, reaching, twisting, etc.
- Limber up by stretching before you begin your shift
- If possible, try sitting rather than squatting or kneeling when performing work
- Don’t overextend or make sudden movements to avoid strains or sprains
3. Floors, Walkways or Ground Surfaces – 9,720 cases in 2016 (up from 8,540 cases in 2015)
Walking surfaces like the ground (3,460), floors (2,780), stairs, steps and escalators (780) and parking lots (530) can be dangerous especially on construction sites where they can be uneven or irregular.
- Watch where you’re walking and wear non-skid footwear to avoid slipping on surfaces
- Be mindful of any tripping hazards or uneven surfaces
- Clean up any spills or material waste and keep walking areas clear at all times
4. Hand Tools – 8,490 cases in 2016 (down from 9,640 cases in 2015)
Powered hand tools (4,390) were the source of more construction accident injuries than nonpowered hand tools (3,710).
Striking tools (1,220) like hammers and cutting tools (1,180) like knives and boxcutters were some of the leading sources of nonpowered hand tool injuries.
For powered hand tools, boring tools (1,090) like drills (1,030), cutting tools (1,280) like power saws (1,200), and striking tools (1,310) like jackhammers (690) and nail guns (530) were the major sources of construction accident injuries.
- Use the proper tool for its designated purpose
- Inspect all hand tools to ensure they are in good working order
- Always wear gloves and other PPE when using hand tools
For more tips on hand tool safety, check out Construction Safety: Working With Hand & Power Tools.
5. Ladders – 7,140 cases in 2016 (up from 6,800 cases in 2015)
Ladders are a handy tool on the construction site. If not used properly, they can easily lead to fall and other injuries.
- Select the right ladder for the job and make sure it is properly secured before each use
- Always maintain three points of contact when climbing
- Tools and materials should be carried by hand when climbing a ladder
For more tips on working with ladders, check out our Tips for Ladder Safety in Construction.
Top 5 Events or Exposures Leading to Construction Accident Injuries or Illnesses
1. Contact with Objects – 29,160 cases in 2016 (up from 26,550 cases in 2015)
Being struck by objects or equipment (19,760) was the leading event in this category with 7,650 being injured by a handheld object or equipment and most of those were caused by the object slipping or being swung by the injured worker (6,180). There were 5,220 construction accident injuries caused by a falling object or equipment striking a worker and 1,010 was by something the worker dropped.
There were 3,650 accident injuries caused by workers being struck against an object or piece of equipment. Of those, 810 were from being struck against a moving object or equipment like a moving part of the machinery (540) and 2,040 were from being struck against something stationary like stepping on an object (560).
There were also 3,260 construction accident injuries from workers being caught in or being compressed by equipment or objects. Being caught in running equipment or machinery caused 850 accident injuries and being compressed or pinched in shifting objects or equipment resulted in 670 accident injuries.
- Avoid areas where overhead work is being done
- Always keep your hard hat on at the jobsite
- Use tool lanyards or netting to avoid knocking tools or materials to a lower level
2. Falls, Slips and Trips – 24,700 cases in 2016 (up from 23,860 total cases in 2015)
Falls to a lower level (12,130) caused more construction accident injuries than falls on the same level (8,310). Slips or trips without falls were responsible for 3,650 accident injuries.
- Make sure fall protection is provided when working at height
- Inspect all personal arrest systems to make sure harnesses, connecting devices and lanyards/lifelines are in good working orders
- Keep walking surfaces clear of construction materials and debris
3. Overexertion – 21,150 cases in 2016 (down from 21,960 total cases in 2015)
Construction is hard, strenuous work and it’s easy to overexert yourself when carrying out daily tasks. Overexertion from lifting or lowering objects (7,210) was the leading cause of construction accident injuries in this category with 6,000 from a single episode of lifting an object. 2,610 were from pulling, pushing or turning and 1,680 were from holding, carrying or wielding. Another 5,550 were from other exertions such as bending, kneeling, twisting, climbing, reaching, etc.
- Always wear a back brace when lifting heavy objects
- Bend at the knees and use your legs to lift objects
- Take frequent breaks when performing tasks that require repetitive motions or when you are feeling tired
4. Transportation Incidents – 3,470 cases in 2016 (up from 3,380 total cases in 2015)
Most of these accident injuries were from roadway incidents and vehicle collisions (2,460). There were also 740 injuries from pedestrians being struck by vehicles in work zones (480) or off the roadway (100) like on construction sites.
- Always obey all traffic rules when operating vehicles on the road
- Use spotters to help notify drivers of workers in their blind spots
- Set up barricades and signs to notify highway drivers of work zones
For more safety tips, check out our 10 Road Construction Work Zone Safety Tips.
5. Exposure to harmful substance or environments – 2,960 cases in 2016 (up from 2,770 cases in 2015)
Exposure to extreme temperatures (1,470) with 800 to environmental heat and 630 from contact with hot objects or substances. Exposure to electricity led to 420 accident injuries in 2016.
Remember, proper safety training is the number one key to preventing construction accident injuries and keeping workers safe.