There are twelve deaths a day on the job according to the official government Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Department of Labor identifies the construction industry as a high hazard industry accounting for one in five deaths of workers in 2013. With such an incredible body count, it is the utmost importance to identify the safety hazards within the industry to help mitigate the death rate and improve the quality of life of the workforce.
OSHA has identified the leading causes of death for workers on construction sites as the following: falling, being hit by machines, tools, or objects; being electrocuted, and being caught between objects. All four of these factors combined were responsible for the death of nearly 60% of all construction deaths. Genuine accidents by the employees themselves such as falls, slips, and trips account for 237 deaths. It is hard to prevent careless behavior, but employers must make an effort to provide a safe environment through the use of safety training. Part of a safe environment is the use of equipment like nonslip shoes, grip tape on stairs and wet areas. Taking all the proper precautions will not eliminate all risks, but it is necessary to effectively implement training and policies that will reduce the associated risks. For this reason, the Department of Labor has established OSHA and regulates minimum safety standards across the United States workforce.
There are unique hazards in any job that are specific to that job, and there is no accounting for the truly bizarre things that can happen in the workplace. There are reports of workers being inside of cement trucks cleaning when someone fills the truck, workers being inside of melting pot ovens when the doors get closed. Safety is an issue in any and every field. The issue is awareness. Employees get good at their job through a combination of training, experience, and leadership. There is an obligation on the employee to conduct themselves in a safe manner, but an employee must have a fair chance at fulfilling that duty. Nearly all accidents occur due to a lack of communication, ignorance, or distracted behaviors. In a construction site where there are multiple moving parts, loud equipment, perhaps extreme weather, and perhaps language barriers it is absolutely vital that all parties communicate effectively. The employee does not want to learn to turn a machine off before they work on it by losing their hand. Experience always teaches, but it is not always the best teacher. Again, it is critical to identify the risks on every site.
Trends and Looking Forward:
Other notable hazards identified by OSHA are dangerous chemicals, fire, highway traffic construction, machinery operations and equipment, high rise buildings or structures with scaffolding, vehicle operations, etc. These numbers are for death only. When injuries are factored in the numbers are much more disturbing and are enough to make any business owner paranoid of opening their doors in the morning. The reality is that the reported deaths for 2013 are the second lowest death reported incidents since 1992 which is phenomenal, even though the desired number is zero. A number to draw comfort from, the total number of employees in the United States is approximated to be over 130 million workers. When you compare that number of workers to the reported 4,405 total number of deceased workers, the numbers are incredible in their own right. As the economy continues to grow, and businesses begin to hire, there is going to be a need to refocus on safety as new hires must learn to operate in new environments. Safety must be given a regular amount of attention on a daily basis with supplemental training monthly to maintain a safe environment.
The author, Ray Donato, manages health and safety at the small construction firm he works with in the northeast. To help reduce risks and make sure he has checked on even the most esoteric of safety hazards, he coordinates his efforts using health and safety software provided at http://www.ecompliance.com. You can learn more about Ray on Google+.