Find out the top five construction injuries and how to prevent them before they happen.
General contracting is a serious business. Construction contractors, electricians, roofers, and painters experience a higher rate of injury and fatality each year than any other industry, including those that many label as “more dangerous” than general contracting. There are numerous occupational injuries, especially construction injuries that could be sustained in your chosen career field, but some are more common than others, and cause far more occurrences and worst-case scenario fatalities. General contractors have a dangerous job; the best way to ensure that you and your family are protected is to always maintain safety regulations, improve observant awareness, and ensure that general contracting insurance is rigidly in place in case of serious or even minor occupational injury. Here are 5 injuries that can happen to you or one of your colleagues.
The most common type of injury associated with general contracting is a fall. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls account for over 24,000 injuries per year, in the United States alone. Most of the construction injury occurrences due to occupation related falls result in needing time off from work, but more serious injuries could result in permanent damage. Electricians, plumbers, roofers, construction workers, and painters account for most of these injuries.
The occurrences generally involve falling from:
- High beams
- Unsafe conditions
Injury was also sustained for failure to use appropriate safety equipment correctly, due to negligence or misuse. Unprotected edges are dangerous, and falling injuries are also associated with loose handrails or a lack of protective handrails entirely. Unsafely positioned ladders account for 24,000 annual construction injuries in the United States. Human error and slippery surfaces are also a common explanation for injuries. Many or all of these conditions can be avoided by applying proper safety measures.
Scaffolding collapse is responsible for over 4,500 of these injuries. In order to prevent damage to contractors and their livelihoods, there are strict safety regulations in place, mainly involving the appropriate use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and employer or property owner responsibility. Most of these injuries occur due to unstable objects being used to support said scaffolding, such as concrete blocks, barrels, or irresponsibly using boxes. Another prominent factor in scaffolding injury is the transport, dismantling, or alteration of the materials by someone who is not qualified in such endeavors. Scaffolding must be inspected upon the beginning of each day or shift, in order to determine if certain materials need immediate repair or replacement. Avoiding these safety precautions is another major factor in general contracting injury.
Electrocution is prominent as well, usually resulting in serious injury. One wrong move or a mistake made in an instant can put human life in danger. Electricity is powerful and dangerous, and should be treated as such. If an improper connection is made, flash burns from partial electrocutions are quite common. Explosions are a possibility and small particles of various metals can shoot out in all directions. This can cause serious injury, such as loss of an eye, shrapnel-like particles imbedded in the skin where the heat might burn under the top-most skin layer, or a shock-induced fall from a high surface after experiencing partial electrocution. Most of the electrocution injuries sustained are due to failure to turn off a necessary power line, either by way of negligence or improper disconnection. While electricians usually suffer these injuries, it is also a major source of construction injuries. According to Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Inc; electrocution is the 2nd highest injury-related incident in construction workers. Experiencing a current through the body is extremely dangerous, as our bodies act as a conductor for electricity. This means that even a very low voltage shock is enough to kill someone because our bodies magnify and increase the voltage by as much as five times.
The fourth most serious injury related to general contracting (especially construction workers) is being crushed by way of being caught in equipment, or between two surfaces with the inability to escape. These injuries are often caused by collapse, but have many other factors. Laceration and slashes are a serious result in many injuries, as industrial strength materials usually have the ability to cut directly through tissue or bone. Internal injuries (such as organ damage or internal bleeding) are also quite common, and may even go untreated because the worker believes the pain would be common after experiencing that type of injury. “Compartment syndrome” is also a common injury that workers are faced with. It is categorized as an injury that is sustained due to blood being cut off from a specific body part for an extended period of time. If the pressure of being crushed is great enough, it can cause compartment syndrome even in short periods of time. This can result in paralysis in extreme cases, or extended weakness and pain in less serious incidences. The body can also go into shock when being crushed or “caught in” something. This is a serious injury, and should always be treated as such.
Being “struck by” or hit by an overhead load or miscellaneous object accounts for a large number of construction injuries and other work-related injuries. According to OSHA, 75% of these injuries are sustained due to heavy equipment and work-related machinery such as cranes (or even trucks). Forklift injuries have numbered over 95,000 per year in the United States, making them one of the most dangerous pieces of machinery to work with. Workers are highly susceptible to being struck by overhead loads or being in the way of the radius of a crane swing; a heightened awareness is required while working under these conditions.
Preventing Construction Injuries
Scaffolding is a dangerous entity in construction work and should be up-to-date in OSHA standards regarding safety at all times. It should be inspected upon the beginning of each shift, and should be regularly fitted with appropriate equipment and should be supported properly at all times. Construction injuries are most often prevented with the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as appropriate face and eyewear, hardhats, appropriate gloves, and slip-resistant hard-toe boots. Falling and crushing injuries are best prevented by safety handrails, the appropriate harnesses, safety nets, sturdy and up-to-date equipment, and an area free of clutter. Prevention is a major factor in work-related injuries, and overlooking safety regulations is the main cause of incident.
Protect yourself, your livelihood, and your family. Time off from work is detrimental to your finances and your well-being. Maintain all legal and proper safety protocols, keep up-to-date PPE, and protect yourself with general contractor’s insurance. You and your family will only stand to benefit from the extra protection, and while contracting and construction injuries are preventable, they are not impossible or even improbable. Maintain workplace safety and ensure more protection for your future.