Jim presents statistics from several sources, including OSHA, that relate to occupational safety and health, as well as construction industry injuries and fatalities. He also introduces the Focus Four categories of construction hazards.
- Construction sites can be hazardous places to the untrained person. But with proper training, the right equipment, and some good choices, these sites don't have to be dangerous places to work. One of the strategies that we use to help us identify hazards is taking a look at what's happened in the past. We can use statistics from incidents that have occurred in the past where people might have been injured, and we use statistics from safety inspections if we have those available. In the United States, we have a federal agency that's called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, and they perform safety inspections as a regulatory function, issuing citations to companies when the observe unsafe work conditions.
They also track occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Now with the size and scope of the data that they collect, they give us a pretty good place to start analyzing incidents that have occurred in the past. When we look at these statistics, some patterns start to emerge, and when we start to see patterns that relate to on-the-job safety, that gives us a pretty good place to start focusing our efforts. In the construction industry, these statistics have led to the phrase the Focus Four.
This phrase refers to the four categories of hazards that make up the biggest percentage of fatalities on construction sites. In fact, in the US, eliminating hazards related to the Focus Four would reduce fatalities on construction sites every year by more than 50%. Again, since these four categories of hazards make up such a huge portion of the things that go wrong and cause people to get hurt on construction sites, they're worth our attention.
These Focus Four hazard categories are: falls, struck-by, caught-in or -between, and electrical. Now these are fairly broad categories, but they account for about three out of every five worker fatalities in construction each year, so they do deserve our attention. Let's go over each one briefly. Falls includes trip and falls, as well as falls from heights, which, unfortunately, are still all too common in our industry.
I recently was retained to look at two serious fall incidents. One in which a very experienced worker fell off a ladder from only about eight feet up, and he died. And another, where a somewhat inexperienced worker fell one story through an opening in a roof under construction and he lost most of the use of one of his arms as a result. Now the problem here with falls is that people don't land like cats. Falls happen in an instant, gravity pulls you down, and you're going to land on whatever part of your body is facing the ground when you fall.
Struck-by hazards are also abundant on construction sites, from cranes swinging loads around, to heavy equipment moving around the jobsite, being struck by a piece of machinery can cause a lot of damage. Now when many of us think about caught-in or caught-between hazards, the first thing that tends to come to mind is a trench collapse. We install a lot of utilities underground, and this requires us to have people in those trenches to do the installations, but there are also additional areas on a construction site that can result in a caught-in or -between type of hazard.
This includes things like getting crushed by material piles, or getting trapped in a confined space. Last, we have electrical. Electricity poses a risk on any jobsite, and not just to the electricians. Really, many times those electricians are going to be trained, and they're prepared for those electrical hazards. But all the rest of us on the site are probably working near those newly-installed electrical lines, and we can be exposed to hazards as we work near overhead and underground power lines as well.
Or we might need to tap into temporary jobsite power and work with extension cords or generators, and they're going to need to be properly set up and maintained. Each of these Focus Four hazard categories deserves our attention, and they give us a good place to start when we begin to analyze the hazards that we're going to need to mitigate on our upcoming construction projects. Stick with me here, and let's continue on and talk about some of the specific conditions that can create these hazards.
Throughout this course, Jim highlights some of the most notable safety and health hazards in the industry—including fall hazards, traffic accidents, and respiratory hazards—and shares strategies for integrating safety, quality, and productivity. He also explains how to leverage technological advancements such as digital drawings to help your team work safer and smarter.
- Recognizing health hazards in the industry
- Integrating safety, quality, and productivity
- Creating a culture of learning
- Recognizing leading indicators
- Using digital solutions to improve safety
- Using BIM to identify hazards early