Construction is the deadliest industry in the United States. Despite safety rules and measures in place for protecting construction workers, this industry consistently has the highest number of worker deaths each year. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 976 workers died in the construction industry in 2020. Recognizing what causes most fatal construction site accidents can help prevent these disasters.
Lack of Fall Protection
Falls are the number one cause of construction worker deaths. In fiscal year 2021, OSHA stated that fall protection in construction was the top most frequently cited safety standard violated. Construction workers often work from heights, such as the roofs of buildings. They should only be allowed to work in these dangerous locations, however, with the correct personal fall protection and fall arrest systems. This may include guardrails, safety nets and harnesses. Inadequate fall protection contributes to fatal falls in construction each year.
Dangerous Scaffolds and Ladders
Deadly falls in construction are also caused by poorly built scaffolds and dangerous ladders. Scaffolding construction should comply with federal safety rules and regulations. Unfortunately, many workers and employers break these rules to save time and money. This can result in improperly constructed scaffolds that collapse or break while in use. Ladder falls are also a common problem, especially when a construction company fails to properly maintain its equipment or replace damaged ladders.
Machinery Malfunctions and Defects
Another leading cause of construction worker death is contact with heavy machinery and equipment. A worker could get crushed and killed by a piece of machinery due to mechanical malfunctions, product defects, missing machine guards or poor worker training. Being struck by or caught in or between a piece of equipment could cause deadly brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, crush injuries and decapitations.
Poorly Secured Tools and Materials
Being struck by falling objects is another top cause of fatal construction worker injuries. Tools, building materials and objects are supposed to be properly secured to scaffolds or worker belts when used from heights. Poorly secured objects could be dropped on workers and pedestrians down below. This can cause severe head and brain injuries, including fatal skull fractures and brain damage. Being struck by cranes and other types of equipment also contributes to construction worker deaths each year. Increasing visibility and encouraging alertness can help prevent these disasters.
Coming into contact with sources of electrical energy can lead to fatal electric shocks, electrical burns and electrocutions for construction workers. Construction companies are required to equip their workers with the proper gear to protect them from electrical hazards. Workers should also be trained to be aware of their surroundings when operating cranes and other construction equipment, such as forklifts, to avoid running them into live power lines. Inadequate grounding, dangerous equipment and faulty power cords all contribute to fatal electrocutions at construction sites.
Finally, accidents that occur while transporting workers, gear, materials or equipment are a leading cause of construction worker death. Drivers may be inadequately trained or not qualified to operate the heavy machinery they are using. They may also have poor visibility and be unable to see the construction site or workers in front of them. Deadly rollover crashes can also occur in construction vehicles with high centers of gravity, such as forklifts.
Contact an Attorney After a Fatal Construction Accident
The top causes of construction worker death – known as the “Fatal Four” in construction – are falls, struck-by falling objects, electrocution, and caught-in/between objects or equipment. It is up to a construction company to protect its workers from these foreseeable injury risks. If you lost a loved one in a devastating construction accident, contact a Dickerson Oxton, LLC Kansas City construction accident lawyer about a potential wrongful death claim. You may be entitled to financial compensation as a form of justice against the construction company for your deceased loved one.