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By: Kendall Jones on August 7, 2020

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Top Five Sources of Construction Worker Deaths

Construction Safety

It’s Safety Week 2017 (May 1 – 5) for the construction industry, which focuses on the shared responsibility of jobsite safety. This year’s theme is "It's in Our Hands" to emphasize the responsibility each worker has not only for their personal safety but for those around them as well.

A lot of emphasis to preventing worker deaths is focused on OSHA’s Fatal Four: falls, being struck by objects, electrocutions, and being caught in or between objects. These are the four main causes of construction worker deaths (excluding highway collisions). In 2015, the Fatal Four were responsible for causing 602 of the 937 construction worker fatalities.

Knowing the main causes of construction worker deaths is good, but understanding the sources that lead to these deaths allows owners to focus their safety training and toolbox talks on the deadliest areas of construction work.

For workers to become more aware of the many hazards that exist on a construction site, we are highlighting the top five primary sources of construction worker deaths. The numbers are based on data from the 2015 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

1. Highway Vehicles (192 fatal injuries)

Highway vehicles are at the top of the list as being the main source of construction worker deaths. Freight hauling and utility trucks such as dump trucks, tractor-trailers and cement trucks were responsible for 92 construction worker deaths. Pickup trucks, another vehicle commonly associated with construction, were the source of 64 deaths.

Highway collisions and work zone accidents were the primary causes of these fatalities. Construction worker deaths caused by roadway incidents involving motor vehicles totaled 136. Twenty-four of the 49 pedestrian vehicular deaths were from workers being struck in work zones.

For more information on work zone safety, check out our 10 Road Construction Work Zone Safety Tips.

2. Other Structural Elements (142 fatal injuries)

Of the 142 fatal injuries were other structural elements were the primary source of a fatal injury, 106 involved roofs. Of the 106 deaths involving roofs, 50 were attributed to roof edges. This is way training and establishing fall protection such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems is so important to keeping workers safe.

3. Ladders (89 fatal injuries)

Ladders are another leading source of construction worker deaths. Movable ladder, which includes extension and step ladders, were the source of 65 of the 89 fatal injuries involving ladders.

For more on how to safely work with ladders, check out our Tips for Ladder Safety in Construction.

4. Structures Other Than Buildings (71 fatal injuries)

Scaffolds, at 55 deaths, were the leading contributor to fatal injuries where structures other than buildings were the primary source.

A competent person is required to inspect scaffolding before each shift and verify it is in good working order and safe to use. Scaffolds must only be erected, dismantled, altered or moved by trained personnel under the direct supervision of a competent person.

For more on scaffold safety, check out The Do’s & Don’ts of Scaffold Safety in Construction.

5. Machine, Tool & Electric Parts (50 fatal injuries)

Most these fatal injuries were from electric parts, 16 were from electrical wiring in buildings and 18 were from power lines, transformers and convertors.

Electrocution can occur from exposure to as little as 50 – 100 milliamperes of current. The maximum current that a person can grab and release a live wire is only 16 milliamperes, any higher and they will not be able to release their grip.

To avoid accidental electrocution, implement lockout/tagout procedures when equipment and circuits are not being used. A qualified person is required to make sure equipment and circuits are de-energized before a lock and/or tag is applied. A qualified person should supervise the removal of locks and tags and re-energizing of equipment and circuits.

A very small number of construction worker deaths are the result of true accidents. Most are preventable by adhering to the regulations laid out in OSHA’s construction industry standards and providing proper safety training to workers.

About Kendall Jones

Kendall Jones is the Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect. He has been writing about the construction industry for years, covering a wide range of topics from safety and technology to industry news and operating insights.