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Construction Safety Doesn't Just Happen. It Requires Effort.

A construction industry magazine recently listed the best ways for contractors to prevent injuries and fatalities at worksites. They should have an incentive: Accidents mean delays and delays mean lost revenue. Contractors also have a special responsibility for preserving and promoting the safety of a job site to protect the health and safety of workers

Common Accidents On Construction Sites

The most common injuries are caused by:

  • Trips and falls caused by uneven ground, tripping hazards such as wires and cables, improperly erected scaffolding and incorrectly used ladders. The New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health reports that around half of construction fatalities in the state are the result of falls from heights and that 71 percent of injuries on worksites involved heights (2008-2013)
  • Machinery and vehicle accidents caused by incorrectly marked vehicle paths, failing to operate large equipment safely, motor vehicle accidents caused by inattention, and speeding and uncontrolled traffic
  • Falling objects that land on workers, including hand tools, lumber and other building materials, and equipment
  • Exhaustion that results in mistakes and heat stroke that results in death

Things Employers Should Do to Prevent Worksite Accidents

There are steps construction companies can take to improve on-the-job safety. When contractors do not take the actions listed below, employees should speak up, because the employer has compromised worker safety.

  • Require daily safety meetings
  • Issue and require employees to use safety gear that fits properly, such as hard hats, eye protection, high visibility vests and other clothing, and fall protection
  • Require that workers take regular breaks to reduce fatigue and water between breaks to prevent heat stroke

The Importance of Training

Some construction companies may provide essential safety equipment but neglect to provide training in its proper use. This balances out the benefits of the equipment - if a construction worker is not properly trained, he or she may think that the worksite is much safer than it actually is because safety equipment was issued.

Training in the use of safety equipment is not the only type of training employers should provide. Employers should offer training not just on the use of tools and equipment but also on evaluating the status of tools to prevent malfunctions that could cause injury. Having a worker trained in first aid on each shift can mean the difference between life and death when accidents occur.

Chilling Facts About Construction Site Safety

Although it is an employer's responsibility to provide training and safety equipment, construction workers need to know that many companies do not obey the rules. For example:

  • Two-thirds of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction site inspections between 2010 and 2012 resulted in serious safety violations. In particular, investigations of falls usually results in a safety violation. In 2012, for example, serious safety violations resulted in citations in 89 percent of fatal fall accidents.
  • Non-union employers are the most likely to violate safety regulations.
  • Latino and other immigrant employees are more likely to be injured or killed while working construction.

It is the employer's responsibility to keep workers safe. Unfortunately, contractors who violate safety regulations seldom receive more than a slap on the wrist and view the minimal OSHA fines as part of the cost of doing business. In short, employers have little incentive to keep their workers safe.