Although an endless list of hazards exists in the construction industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a group of four to which they refer to as the Construction Focus Four. If you are a construction worker in Pennsylvania, you might already know that falls, caught-in-between, electrocution and struck-by hazards represent more than 50 percent of construction-related workplace fatalities each year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of these four hazards, struck-by equipment or objects are most prevalent.
Safety advisers, including OSHA, say taking appropriate precautions can help prevent these accidents. General precautions include the proper personal protective equipment. No one should be on a construction site without safety boots with steel toes and a hard hat.
You can also protect yourself by only operating equipment that is adequately maintained, has the necessary safety devices and for which you have adequate training. There are four types of struck-by hazards to address when establishing safety protocols for a construction project, each with its own precautions.
A falling object can strike you, or if it falls on you, it could crush or pin you under its weight. The following precautions could prevent falling objects:
- Use canopies, catch platforms or debris nets under elevated workspaces to deflect or catch falling objects.
- Do not throw materials or tools to other workers when you work at heights.
- Secure loads before you lift them with a forklift.
- Make sure loose materials or objects are secure when you store them in an overhead location.
- Make sure you store heavy objects at or close to floor level.
- Use barricades to restrict access to areas below elevated work areas.
Thrown, propelled or hurled objects cause this hazard, and the following steps might prevent injury:
- Avoid throwing tools or objects to co-workers.
- Materials can separate from lathes, saws and other machines. Make sure the necessary shields and safeguards are in place and in good order.
- Protect your eyes and face when working on machines. Wear safety goggles or a face shield.
This hazard includes incidents, such as a moving vehicle or other sliding or rolling object, that knock you down without trapping you. Prevent such an injury by doing the following:
- Do not walk ahead of moving equipment, but rather behind it.
- Make sure vehicles are in good working order.
- Be cautious near doorways and corners for moving equipment like forklifts.
- Avoid overloading equipment and obstructing your vision.
- Make eye contact with operators of large equipment before you approach them.
Swinging or slipping objects
These hazards typically involve cranes or hoists with loads that are either affected by high winds or an out-of-control operator. The following precautions might prevent accidents:
- Inspect all the components of hoists or cranes before lifting loads.
- Secure each load and lift it evenly.
- Make sure each load is within the machine's lifting capacity.
- Keep your distance from cranes and hoists with suspended loads.
Although you might improve your chances of staying safe by taking these precautions, even a small error by someone else can cause a construction accident that could send you to the hospital with severe injuries. You might suffer temporary disability, and along with mounting medical bills, the lost wages could ruin your financial stability. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance system assists injured workers. You are also free to use the services of experienced legal counsel to help navigate a benefits claim.