Construction Focus Four: The Top Four Construction Hazards, and Tips to Avoid Them

Construction Focus Four: The Top Four Construction Hazards, and Tips to Avoid Them

Construction is one of the largest employers in the U.S., employing hundreds of thousands of workers in assorted trades. It also includes some of the most dangerous jobs in the country, due to common construction hazards at job sites.

In 2021, construction fatalities declined for the second year in a row, though they still accounted for almost one in five worker deaths. Despite decreasing 2.5% from 2020, and almost 11% from 2019, the construction industry still made up the second-largest occupational category of fatalities, as is the case every year.

This is due to the fact that construction activities present several hazards that can compromise the health and safety of workers. The frequency of these construction hazards makes it imperative to understand them and to train workers to avoid them, with the goal of keeping those workers safe on the job at all times.

So what are the leading causes of worker death in the construction industry? Statistics show that the leading causes are falls, followed by “struck by object” incidents, electrocution, and caught-in or -between. In safety circles, these are known as the “Focus Four,” and together these four hazards were responsible for almost 60% of construction worker deaths in 2021.

Top Four Construction Hazards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified the “Focus Four” as the main causes of the majority of financial, physical, and emotional losses in the construction industry. As mentioned above, OSHA’s Focus Four Hazards are:

  1. Fall Hazards
  2. Caught-In or Between Hazards
  3. Struck-By Hazards
  4. Electrical Hazards
CPWR Construction Focus Four Fatal Injuries Data Charts

Hazard 1: Fall Hazards

A fall hazard is anything at a construction site that could cause a worker to lose their balance or lose bodily support, resulting in a fall. Fall hazards on a jobsite are a severe, chronic, and recurring problem in the industry. Just about any walking or working surface can present a potential fall hazard.

According to the BLS, falls from heights are the leading cause of fatalities in construction, while falls on the same level are one of the leading causes of serious injuries. In 2021, falls accounted for nearly one in three construction fatalities.

Focus Four Tip: For falls, proper training is key. Review scaffold and ladder safety with any and all construction workers or employees that might use these. But also be aware: Almost half of all fatal falls (45%) are from heights over 10 feet! So be sure to include rooftop safety measures in your training program, too.

Hazard 2: Caught-In or -Between Hazards

According to OSHA, caught-in or -between hazards are defined as injuries that result from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects, or between parts of an object. These accounted for almost 6% of all construction fatalities in 2021. Some working conditions that especially contribute to caught-in or -between hazards include:

Focus Four Tip: Most equipment has safety guards — make sure these are properly installed and maintained at all times. That said, construction workers still need to be aware of their environment at all times! They should know how to respect barricades, monitor equipment movement, and maintain appropriate distances. They should also be aware of trenches and wear proper safety equipment in and around them.

Hazard 3: Struck-By Hazards

Struck-by hazards accounted for more than 17% of all construction fatalities in 2021. Struck-by injuries are produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and an object or piece of equipment — not to be confused with caught-in or -between hazards. The difference is that, for struck-by accidents, the impact alone causes the injury, versus a caught accident where injury resulted from crushing injuries between objects.

To get a better idea, struck-by hazards are categorized as a flying object, falling object, swinging object, or rolling object, such as:

Focus Four Tip: Caution and consistency are the order of the day when it comes to preventing struck-by accidents. Ensure that employees are storing loose materials and tools neatly and securely, especially if they need to be stored or secured at a height. Emphasize the need for construction workers to wear their personal protective equipment, especially steel-toed shoes and hard hats. Keep lines of vision open at all times, both for equipment operators and those simply moving about the environment.

Hazard 4: Electrocution Hazards

According to OSHA, electrocution results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy, accounting for more than 7.5% of all construction fatalities in 2021. The top three types of electrocution hazards in construction are 1) contact with overhead power lines, 2) contact with energized sources, and 3) improper use of extension and flexible cords.

An electrical hazard can be defined as a workplace occurrence that exposes workers to the following dangers, as outlined by the acronym BE SAFE found in OSHA’s Electrocution Hazards guide:

Note that these are all potential common hazards while doing electrical work, but they can occur anytime and anywhere electrical equipment is used.

Focus Four Tip: There are many steps to be taken around electrical safety. Be sure electrical equipment is being properly maintained, and that employees are being properly trained when it comes to electrical safety measures.

Focus Four Hazard Training

The Focus Four Hazards are so important for safety in the construction industry that they are covered extensively in both OSHA 10-hour Construction and OSHA 30-hour Construction training curricula Providing training on these hazards is a cornerstone of occupational safety for the construction industry.

One of the best ways to improve health and safety on a construction site is to ensure all workers have their OSHA cards. Some states or industries require workers to renew their cards annually (or other recurring cycle). If you don’t have that external mandate at your site, it might be worth developing a policy that workers complete their OSHA 10 or 30 hour training and renew every few years. It’s easier than ever to obtain an OSHA card with online training, just be sure to use an OSHA-Authorized online outreach training provider. It’s not worth wasting 10 hours, let alone 30 hours, with a provider who isn’t authorized or has had their status suspended or revoked.

Utilizing the Focus Four Hazards training at job sites is essential to ensure that the proper precautions are being taken for worker safety. The problem is not that the hazards and risks are unknown; it is that they are very difficult to control in a constantly changing work environment…like a construction site.

By understanding the top four hazards and giving your workers the proper training, everyone will be able to better recognize those hazards in the workplace and on the job site. That knowledge goes a long way in creating a safer work environment.

Stay Safe with HSI

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HSI has the safety training you need to stay in compliance and protect your workers against the hazards of OSHA’s Focus Four. Check out our solutions for more information.

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