The construction industry is lagging far behind in terms of basic safety measures. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 out of every 5 private sector worker deaths happened in construction industry in 2019. This brings the total to an alarming 1,061 fatalities in a single year.
Around 200,000 nonfatal injuries were registered in the very same year too. According to Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the four main safety hazards in construction department are falls, electrocution, being struck by an object and being caught in or between heavy machinery, walls among other places.
Read on to take a closer look at this situation.
Four Main Problem Areas
Over 60 percent of all the construction industry accidents are caused in four main areas. They have notoriously been dubbed as the fatal four. First, we have the electrocution. It causes over 7 percent accidents in this sector. The nature of these disasters include amputation, burns and even death. The faulty wiring, shaky setup, proximity to the water source is few of the many ways that ultimately lead to electrocution.
Next is the falls. The skyscrapers are built over the graves of many innocent construction workers. Scaffolding equipment, ladder and other make-shift equipment is used to keep up with the vertically expanding structures. The workers need to be properly trained and supplied with sufficient safety gear before taking on such projects. The construction falls comprise of 40 percent of at-work accidents.
Devoid of Basic Safety
Then there is the trapped or caught in-between category. A lot of heavy and dangerous machinery is present on a construction site. Sometimes, the unassuming worker or their arm or leg can mistakenly be caught in a deadly equipment. That usually has disastrous consequences. A total of 5 percent construction-related accident is caused in this way. Poorly made walls and other constructions also collapse and cause serious loss of life.
Lastly, we have the case of being struck by an object. Even a small object dropped from sufficient height can cause lethal damage to the victim. At a construction site, this is bound to happen in the absence of a properly created and executed safety plan. The hard helmets offer some protection but they might not be able to cancel out this blow. These kinds of injuries account for about 8 percent of all accidents in a construction site.
A lot needs to be done here. One positive step in this direction was when the Mayor Bill De Blasio signed Local Law 196 in 2017. It focuses on establishing, maintaining and enforcing safe working conditions. This law has been in full-swing since September 1, 2020. It is to be carried out in stages. The key points of the regulation are higher fines on construction site violations. Mandatory 40 hours training for the construction workers to keep them prepared and safe.
150 more inspectors have been added to ensure proper implementation of the law across various construction sites. There needs to be additional supervisors at the site too, according to this law. All these guidelines will definitely make the contractors and owners think twice before skimping on the safety budget for the workers. A lot of times the approaching deadlines make the contractors put extreme pressure on the workers to finish under impossible circumstances.
The first thing to go out of the window in this case is safety. You cannot play fast and loose when you are surrounded by freshly-build structure that are still in the process of settling in. There needs to be absolute organisation and steadiness while you are working with machinery a hundred time your size. According to Tim Hogan, the NYC’s Department of Building deputy commissioner of enforcement, around a quarter of New York construction sites still lack proper compliance.
We are living in the golden age of architecture. That means there is always a new place to be built or renovated somewhere. This also means that a lot of contractors might want to take up more work than they have the resources for. This translates to them opting for cheap labour, substandard raw materials, counterfeiting the training cards and forcing the untrained labor to finish the work at a hurried pace. This is a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later, this dynamite of fatal work conditions blows up on everyone’s face.
Within this industry, the construction laborers have the highest mortality rate. Then in the descending order, we have, Supervisors of Construction and Extraction Workers, roofers, carpenters, electricians, Construction Equipment Operators, Painters and Paperhangers, Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, Highway Maintenance Workers and Structural Iron and Steel Workers.
In case of the non-fatal injuries, the construction laborers have still suffered the most according to a recent consensus. In this same category, next we have the Carpenters, electricians, Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters, Supervisors of Construction and Extraction Workers, roofers, Construction Equipment Operators, Construction Trade Helpers, Painters and Paperhangers and Sheet Metal Workers.
The main cause of injury in 2019 was being struck by a falling object. Next, we have the trips and falls that caused 25,460 injuries in a year alone. Overexertion and transportation accidents caused 20,050 injuries. Fires and explosions caused 380 injuries. Exposure to harmful chemicals at work caused around 2,500 injuries.
The 79,660 injuries and illnesses caused include sprains, strains and tears soreness or pain, fractures, cuts, punctures and lacerations. These injuries were serious enough to force them to take a day off from work. They lost vitality and livelihood due to the poor work safety conditions. The construction department need to do a lot better than just pass a few laws once in a while and hope for the best.
This brings us to the end of our report.
Do the construction workers in your area have proper work conditions? Is there someone you know who has personally suffered the dire consequences as mentioned above? Tell us in the comment section below. Also, forward this as far and wide as possible, so that there’s a chance this article reaches the concerned authorities.