While there are numerous conditions on a construction job site that prove hazardous — and they are all worth protecting against via adequate equipment and employee training — a few risk factors stand out from the rest. These are the top causes of injury, the potentially fatal dangers every construction worker must look out for.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is especially emphatic about ensuring contractors protect their employees from the top four risks, sometimes known as the “Fatal Four.” When developing a safety training program, you should make sure these risks are covered.
What Are the Fatal Four and How Should Employees Guard Against Them?
The Fatal Four have been slightly rebranded in recent years — current OSHA materials refer to these dangers as the “Focus Four.” The concept remains the same, however. These are the four categories of incidents most likely to lead to fatalities on the construction job site. As such, it’s worth taking extra time and effort in employee education programs to ensure workers are fully aware of these types of problems.
These four hazards are:
Fall risks come in several forms. Construction workers must take sufficient precautions when working around high, unprotected edges, spending time on scaffolding, or climbing ladders. OSHA mandates fall prevention measures of some type for all work higher than 6 feet.
The types of fall prevention systems available to employees are varied to reflect the many situations in which construction workers may find themselves working at an elevation. For instance, employers can erect guardrails, set up safety nets, or use personal fall arrest systems. Each of these options comes with its own OSHA regulations to make sure it’s being implemented correctly.
A person who is caught in a confined place or between objects may be subject to extreme bodily injury, and there are numerous potential hazards on a given construction site for caught-between injuries. OSHA’s examples of caught-in and caught-between risks include cave-ins during trenching, being pulled into machinery, and compression between moving objects.
Since there are so many scenarios in which a person might be caught in or between objects, effective countermeasures are very situational. For instance, OSHA urges construction site supervisors to ensure all heavy equipment is safely operated, there are clear paths for workers to work in, and only trained individuals are in risky areas.
A struck-by incident is one in which the harm to the victim is just caused by impact with an object, rather than becoming trapped or enclosed. OSHA maintains four subcategories within this hazard type: flying, falling, swinging and rolling objects. This includes everything from vehicles to smaller items, such as nails fired from nail guns or even gases, such as compressed air.
As with caught-between hazards, training employees not to be struck by objects involves varied practices depending on the specific type of risk. For vehicles, this may mean being vigilant around active lanes and wearing reflective clothing. For using tools and machines, workers should train with those specific objects, use personal protective equipment and inspect their materials carefully.
There are many pieces of electrically powered equipment on a given job site and just as many ways for those assets to be hazardous. Electrocution itself is just one of the ways in which an employee can encounter danger when using these tools. OSHA breaks it down with the acronym BE SAFE, which stands for Burns, Electrocution, Shock, Arc flash/blast, Fire, and Explosions.
The defenses against electrocution range from using equipment to interrupt currents to staying away from power lines and making sure electrical tools are in good condition before every use. Lockout/tagout procedures for powered assets are also part of a well-rounded employee protection strategy.
What Are Your Options Regarding Employee Education Materials for Construction?
Due to the very real risk posed by the Fatal Four and the importance of OSHA compliance on the job site, there are numerous training modules designed with these specific factors in mind. By using interactive online training with a strong video component, you can ensure your team has access to the latest materials, while gaining the cost and convenience advantages that come from digital training.
Some courses offer tips for specific scenarios — such as entering confined spaces or staying safe around cranes. Others are more general overviews of a particular Fatal Four hazard. The connecting thread between all these options is they give supervisors a way to quickly and efficiently communicate information to their teams that could prove life-saving.
A combination of OSHA’s awareness programs and cutting-edge training materials can transform a construction site for the better, creating an environment that is safer and helping the job get completed with no incidents. There’s no need to be daunted by the many potential risk factors on the job site when your employees are prepared to handle them.