Today we will take a look at struck-by hazards in the second of our four-part series on construction safety. OSHA has determined that there are four main safety hazards that account for 57% of all fatalities at construction sites. Dubbed the “Fatal Four” by OSHA, they include falls, electrocutions, being struck by objects, and caught in or between hazards.
Struck-by injuries occur when a worker is comes into forcible contact with a flying, falling, swinging or rolling object. Struck-by injuries are the second highest cause of fatalities among construction workers.
According to OSHA, struck-by injuries accounted for 73 deaths in 2011 or 10 percent of all construction related fatalities. This is due to the numerous hazards that can create struck-by injuries. There are four common struck-by hazards in construction: struck-by flying objects, struck-by falling objects, struck-by swinging objects and struck-by rolling objects.
Struck-by Flying Object Hazards
Injuries from flying objects can include being struck by accidental nail gun discharges, thrown tools or debris, or the tip flying off a saw blade. Power tools should be inspected to insure protective guards are in proper condition. Workers should always wear safety glasses, goggles or a face shield when using power tools. Nail gun accidents are one of the most common struck-by flying object hazards. Workers should steer clear of the line of sight when a nail gun is being used. This also includes workers who might be working on the opposite side of a wall of plywood or sheetrock. Misfires have enough force that they can easily penetrate plywood and gypsum board and strike the worker on the opposite side causing a fatality.
Struck-by Falling Object Hazards
Struck-by falling object injuries can encompass everything from tools and materials being knocked off unprotected edges to a suspended load coming loose. Workers should also avoid working in areas where work is being performed overhead where they could be struck by falling debris or tools. Tools and materials should be secured when performing overhead work using toeboards or screens to prevent objects falling or debris nets and catch platforms to deflect falling objects.
Struck-by Swinging Object Hazards
Injuries caused by swinging objects usually occur when materials are being mechanically lifted and something causes the load to sway or when a worker is inside the swing radius of a piece of heavy equipment such as a crane. Workers should never position themselves under a suspended load. Workers should stay well outside the swing radius and verify that the heavy equipment operator can see them.
Struck-by Rolling Object Hazards
Injuries caused by rolling objects usually involve a worker being struck by a vehicle or heavy equipment while it’s in motion but also include any object that rolls, moves or slides on the same level as a worker. Workers should steer clear of vehicles and heavy equipment in use. Many times equipment operators have limited or no visibility when operating in reverse so it is important that workers are aware of areas where heavy equipment is being operated to avoid those areas. It is also important that operators of heavy equipment are properly trained. Struck-by accidents involving heavy equipment often occur due to operators not being properly trained on how to safely operate the machinery.
Adequate awareness of your surroundings and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) can go a long way in avoiding injuries at the construction site. It is important for employers to alert all workers of areas where there is greater potential for struck-by accidents to occur and to limit employee access to those areas. OSHA requires that employers provide employees with proper PPE. This varies by the type of work being done and the hazards workers are exposed to but include items such as hard hats, safety glasses and face shields and ear protection. All PPE used at the construction site whether it’s employee provided steel-toed boots to employer provided hard hats, they should all meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. PPE should be inspected prior to each use to ensure that it’s in proper working condition and free from any defects or damage.
This is by no means intended to be a be-all, end-all guide to preventing struck-by accidents at you construction site. It is simply a guide outlining some of the types of struck-by hazards and safety measures to help prevent accidents. For more information on compliance with OSHA’s construction industry regulations, visit their website at http://www.osha.gov/doc/index.html.