The 10 Most Common Construction Site Hazards – and How to Avoid Them

General Contractors
Subcontractors
March 17, 2022

Construction sites can be a minefield of potential hazards. OSHA has recognized the top four causes of worker death, called the “Fatal Four,” but there are many more potential hazards that workers must protect themselves from. Construction bidding websites make it easy to find projects, but once these projects have started, it’s important to create a safe construction work environment. We’ve provided a list of the 10 most common construction site hazards and provided advice on how to avoid them.

1. Falls

Fall protection is the number one violation cited by OSHA. In 2019, falls, slips, and trips were the most frequent type of fatal events in the construction industry. They represented 37.9% of all fatalities in that year.

Fall protection programs include procedures for working at height. They detail how and when personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) are to be used. Employees should be trained on all facets of a company’s fall protection program and use PFAS when required.

2. Struck by

Struck by accidents occur when a worker is hit by a vehicle, falling object, or flying object. One in four struck by vehicle deaths involves a construction worker, and 75% of these fatalities involve heavy equipment like trucks or cranes.

While struck by accidents can’t be completely eliminated, proper personal protective equipment (PPE), protocols, and training can help mitigate the risk.

3. Electrical

In 2019, the construction industry had the highest rate of fatal electrical injuries (0.7 / 100,000) and 8% of all electrical injuries were fatal. Electrical hazards on the job site include working with power lines, lack of ground fault protection, equipment not being used as intended, and improper use of extension cords.

Only those with the proper training and PPE should work with electricity on site. Equipment should not be tampered with or modified in any way.

4. Caught in/between

Caught in or between hazards occur when a person becomes caught, squeezed, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or parts of an object. A safety hazard may come from unguarded moving machinery, excavation, trenches, moving materials, vehicles, or equipment. In 2019, caught in or between incidents caused 8.5% of construction worker deaths.

To avoid this safety hazard, only use machinery that is properly guarded, use proper lockout/tag-out procedures, and de-energize equipment before doing maintenance. Don’t go between moving materials, practice trench safety, and stay out of the swing radius of cranes and other equipment.

5. Scaffolding/ladders

The improper use of scaffolding and ladders can lead to injury or death. Scaffolding may collapse due to structural instability or overloading or planking, or supports giving way. In 2018, 61 fatalities were recorded from scaffolding. Using the wrong type of ladder can also lead to falls and injuries. The CDC says that 43% of fatal falls in the last decade involve ladders.

Regularly inspect ladders and scaffolding for potential damage. Use the proper ladder for the construction work being done. Make sure that scaffolding is erected and used correctly.

6. Airborne substances

Airborne materials, such as asbestos and silica, can lead to long-term illness or breathing problems. Workers may be exposed to these substances when providing demolition services or cutting through materials. In 2021, OSHA cited 2,527 respiratory protection violations.

Workers should use proper facemasks and respirators when working with potentially hazardous materials, such as asbestos, silica, and lead. Workers must be medically fitted for respirators and see a doctor once a year for a checkup when using them long-term.

7. Noise

The sounds caused by construction equipment can be damaging to unprotected years. Prolonged exposure to these noises can cause hearing damage or loss. According to the CDC and NIOSH, 51% of construction workers have been exposed to hazardous noise, and 52% of workers exposed to noise report not wearing hearing protection.

OSHA says that regular eight-hour exposure to noise levels over 85 dB can cause hearing damage over time. Noises that reach 100 dB can cause hearing loss with just one hour of exposure each day. Workers should wear earplugs or noise-canceling headphones when working near equipment.

8. Trenches

Whenever there are open trenches or excavation on a job site, there is a potential for workers to fall into the trench or be crushed by materials that aren’t properly shored up. According to the CDC and NIOSH, from 2013 to 2017, there were 97 trenching fatalities in the construction industry, an average of 19 per year.

Excavations less than 5 feet deep don’t require protective systems as long as the sides are stable. Excavations of more than 5 feet need to employ sloping or benching tactics to the walls.

9. Material handling

Handling heavy or large materials can cause injuries. Back injuries, along with sprains and strains, can lead to lost time and low construction productivity. 

Workers should have training on proper lifting techniques, as well as use mechanical assistance when possible. Proper lifting uses a worker’s legs to lift heavy items. Make sure workers are adequately trained on using lifting equipment properly.

10. Vibration

Workers that use vibrating equipment, like jackhammers, may potentially get hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). This painful disease is caused by repeated exposure to vibrating hand tools. Symptoms can be long-lasting, even after workers stop working.

Workers should use appropriate protection when working with vibrating hand tools and reduce the hours of exposure per day. Tools should be well maintained to reduce the amount of vibration.

Safety is the number one concern on most construction projects. With many simultaneous hazards present, everyone must be aware of construction safety tips and the risks at all times. Boost site safety and efficiency of your job side by learning about hazards or new tools that can benefit you, such as free general contractor software. By addressing the 10 most common construction site hazards listed above, you’ll go a long way to protecting everyone on the site.

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