The Most Common Construction Injuries & How to Prevent Them
Dusty Robotics Team
May 15, 2023
There is no doubt that construction is a laborious and potentially dangerous job. With heavy lifting, hazardous materials, and precarious work environments, there are ample opportunities for workplace injuries to occur. Protecting your workers’ well-being is a critical aspect of managing construction projects. Safe construction practices keep your workers healthy and also keep your projects running on schedule. With the growing construction labor shortage, it’s more important than ever to protect your subcontractors from construction injuries.
In this article, we break down the most common construction injuries according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and share essential tips for keeping your workers safe.
Top 4 Most Common Construction Injuries
The construction industry has one of the highest rates of workplace injuries, and unfortunately, fatal injuries have been increasing in recent years. While all construction workers are at risk of incurring injuries, on average, 35% of injuries occur during a worker’s first year on the job, regardless of age or industry experience. This means that new employees or contractors are the most vulnerable to construction injuries, illustrating the need for comprehensive onboarding and safety training programs. Educating your workforce on safety and implementing safety best practices can help save lives.
Read on to learn the most common construction injuries and tips for preventing them from happening at your work sites.
1. Fall Injuries
Falls are the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the construction industry, with roughly 300-400 construction workers falling to their death per year. And, in 2021, the number of fatal falls in the construction industry increased by 7.2%.
Construction workers often work at high elevations, such as on scaffolding, ladders, or rooftops. These precarious positions put workers at incredibly high risk for injury, especially without adequate safety measures. Unfortunately, the lack of fall protection is the number one violation of OSHA standards in construction. With falls being the most common and deadly type of construction injury, preventing falls during your construction project lifecycle should be a top concern.
Tips for Preventing Falls
Robotic technology can automate manual tasks like layout, reducing the need for workers to be in high-elevation construction zones. For instance, Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter automates layout by printing the coordinated digital model directly on the construction site surface. The FieldPrinter works quickly and efficiently, reducing risks, compressing construction schedules, and limiting the amount of time spent on-site at high elevations.
If workers must perform activities in high-elevation zones, keep the area clear of tripping and slipping hazards, and ensure the use of adequate fall protection equipment. This includes guardrail systems, safety nets, and high-quality construction helmets. Recent studies have shown that wearing construction helmets with air bubble cushions reduces the probability of serious head injury by nearly 30%.
In addition, high wind gusts pose a perilous threat to construction workers at high elevations and even on the ground floor. Be mindful of severe weather conditions and wind speed:
- Wind speeds of 15 mph: dust and small items can be blown causing a slight fall risk.
- Wind speeds of 20-25 mph: tree limbs can move and wind gusts can knock a person off balance causing a high fall risk.
- Wind speeds of 25+ mph: work at elevation is unsafe and this type of work should cease.
2.Struck by an Object Injuries
According to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, workers in the construction industry have 2X the likelihood of being struck by an object compared to other industries. Moreover, struck-by injuries are the most common injury in the industry and the second most common reason for workplace fatalities. These types of injuries typically occur as a result of heavy equipment and machinery such as cranes or derricks. Lift zones in construction sites are particularly dangerous for this reason, and all workers operating machinery or working in a lift zone must be trained properly. Industry studies have found that lack of training for all workers, not just crane operators, significantly contributes to incidents involving cranes.
Tips for Preventing Struck-by Injuries
Ensuring crane lift zone safety is a critical practice for maintaining safe construction sites. In addition, construction workers should be trained to never position themselves between a moving and fixed object and to secure materials and tools properly so that they won’t fall. Follow these construction best practices to prevent construction struck-by injuries:
- Never work under a load.
- “Rig it Right” to prevent unbalanced loads.
- Stay outside of the swing radius of cranes and backhoes.
- Tether tools to your work belt when in high elevation.
- Wear high-visibility work gear.
- Establish zones that separate foot traffic from moving and heavy equipment.
- Utilize protection like barriers and vehicle arresting systems.
3. Repetitive Motion Injuries
Construction can be physically demanding work, requiring workers to lift heavy materials, use power tools, and spend countless hours on their knees and standing up and down. These repetitive motions take a toll on the body and can result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). At first, these injuries might only exhibit minor aches and pains, but returning to the same task without properly recovering first can damage workers’ nerves, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and joints. Defending against repetitive motion injuries helps ensure a better quality of life for workers, reducing the risk of shoulder and low back strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendonitis.
Tips for Preventing Repetitive Motion Injuries
Limiting the need for repetitive motions in the first place is the best way to prevent injuries caused by repetitive motions. For instance, investing in robotic automation like Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter obviates the need for workers to conduct manual layout. This saves foremen from bending down thousands of times a day and manually measuring and marking the construction site surface. Instead, the FieldPrinter autonomously prints the digital model directly onto the site floor, so workers only need to confirm the layout. When workers must utilize repetitive motions, it’s important to keep the following tips in mind:
- Select the best and lightest power tool for the job.
- Limit the use of overhead drilling via mounted tripods.
- Share the load of heavy materials.
- Wear protective gear to reduce exposure to vibration.
4. Electrocution Injuries
Active construction sites frequently have live wires or live electrical equipment. Likewise, electrocutions in the construction industry are most commonly caused by direct or indirect contact with live electrical equipment or wiring, such as light fixtures, circuit breakers, control panels, and transformers. Electrocution danger is particularly prevalent during the temporary use of power, the failure to de-energize power lines or maintain clearance distances, as well as the improper use of extension cords. These injuries are most commonly sustained by electricians, followed by roofers, HVAC mechanics, and laborers.
Tips for Preventing Electrocution Injuries
Electrical safety training is essential to preventing electrocutions on a construction site. Notably, training materials should be offered in the native language of the workers to ensure accessibility and comprehension of the best practices. In the US construction industry, nearly 30% of the workforce is Hispanic, which means language accessibility is a key aspect of ensuring safety on US job sites.
Minimizing the need for rework on construction projects can help reduce the likelihood of exposure to live wires that pose a threat to workers. For example, utilizing digital-driven robotic layout improves layout accuracy, reduces the risk of faulty installation, and minimizes the need for rework. Less exposure means less risk, keeping workers away from safety threats. In addition, there are further best practices for preventing electrocution injuries:
- Comply with all OSHA and NFPA electrical safety standards.
- Utilize ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for temporary electrical power.
- Identify the location of overhead and underground power lines, ensuring ten feet of distance or more.
- Check that all electrical equipment is properly grounded or double insulated.
- Utilize lock-out/tag-out practices to de-energize circuits.
- Disconnect the plug and inspect all tools, equipment, and extension cords before use.
- Keep metal materials away from live electrical components. Invest in a Safe & Productive Workplace
Invest in a Safe & Productive Workplace
Facilitating a safe construction workplace will help protect and retain your workforce and attract new workers to the field. With a shortage of skilled labor causing expensive delays and issues, improving workplace safety is integral to the success of your projects and the industry as a whole. Innovative technology is making construction safer by taking on some of the most dangerous and repetitive parts of construction jobs.
Discover how Dusty Robotics FieldPrinter can increase your worker’s safety and improve your bottom line.