Commentary: Construction accidents and causes

Construction accidents and causes
Andy Bateman
June 30, 2009
Along with the construction season comes, unfortunately, the risk of construction related injuries and fatalities. But under what circumstances do construction accidents most often occur? Some years ago, 3,496 construction fatalities were investigated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and many of its conclusions appear to be just as relevant today.

“Falls from elevation represented the largest cause, 33 percent, of all construction fatalities, while “struck by”, “caught in/between” and electrical shock represented 22 percent, 18 percent and 17 percent of accident causes respectively. There was no significant difference in the number of fatalities for the various days of the normal five day work week.

About 79 percent of trenching fatalities occurred in trenches less than 5m deep, while 65 percent of the fatalities due to electrical shock involved contact with overhead power lines.

The relative contribution of the four major causes (falls from elevation, struck by, caught in/between, electrical shock) to the total number of fatalities did not vary significantly over the five-year study period, i.e., the same types of fatal accidents were continuing to occur with the same relative frequency.

Heavy construction other than building construction accounted for 34 percent of total construction fatalities. Caught in/between fatalities occurred most frequently in heavy construction, while about 75 percent of the fatalities due to being struck by a machine involved heavy construction equipment such as trucks, cranes, graders, or scrapers. Many of the fatalities caused by being struck by material involved poor rigging of loads being moved or poor storage of materials.”

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