What Are the Most Common Causes of Construction Accidents?

construction accidents guardrail

Construction sites are known for being among the most dangerous places to work. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year, 20 percent of worker fatalities in the United States are caused by construction accidents. However, many of these accidents can be prevented by taking proactive steps to make safety a priority and avoid common hazards. If you do suffer a serious injury while working at a construction site, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer as soon as possible.

What Do I Need to Know About the Fatal Four Construction Accidents?

Falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object and being caught in or between objects are known as the “Fatal Four” construction accidents, and they account for over half of all construction worker deaths each year. In addition to the tragic fatalities, these accidents can cause injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to broken bones and severe spinal injuries.

Busy construction sites present a range of safety hazards that can be addressed by ensuring that the necessary safety protocols are in place, that they are followed at all times, and that workers use the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) for their job. When workers and employers do not make safety a top priority, there is an increased risk for serious, potentially fatal construction accidents. The following Fatal Four accidents are responsible for a significant percentage of construction accidents:

Falls: These are the leading cause of serious and fatal injuries among construction workers. According to OSHA, 65 percent of the construction industry uses scaffolding, and when they are not erected or used properly, serious fall accidents can occur. The following are some of the common causes of fall accidents, which make up close to 34 percent of fatalities at construction sites:

  • Ladders that are damaged, defective, or too short for the job
  • Debris, electrical cords and other tripping hazards on roofs and other elevated surfaces
  • Slippery surfaces caused by rain, ice, spills, or other slipping hazards
  • Unguarded ledges, skylights, or elevator shafts
  • Unmarked tranches or excavation sites

Struck by objects: These accidents make up over 11 percent of construction fatalities. They occur when a worker is hit by an object that falls or rolls off an elevated surface, or swings from a piece of machinery. Depending on the size of the object, and the speed at which it strikes the worker, these accidents can cause injuries ranging from minor scrapes to life-threatening injuries and fatalities. The following are examples of struck-by accidents:

  • Falling scaffolding, pipes, or lumber
  • Dropped tools
  • Accidents with heavy equipment or vehicles
  • Broken high-pressure hoses or lines
  • Flying nuts and bolts
  • Falling suspended loads

Electrocutions: Construction workers often come in contact with electrically charged objects while they are performing their regular job duties. Electrocutions make up approximately 8.5 percent of construction-related fatalities. The following are examples of common electrical hazards that can increase the risk of a serious accident at a construction site:

  • Poorly insulated power lines
  • Overloaded extension cord wires
  • Electrical circuits that do not have the proper breakers or fuses
  • Electrical equipment that has not been properly grounded
  • Failure to ground fault circuit interrupter
  • Electrical tools that are operated with a cord are not properly grounded or insulated

Caught by/in between accidents: This occurs when a worker gets caught, crushed, or pinched between two objects. They are responsible for approximately five percent of construction fatalities and can cause very serious injuries. According to OSHA, the following are the leading causes of caught-in/between accidents at construction sites:

  • Trench cave-ins
  • Getting pulled into a piece of machinery
  • Getting crushed between moving objects like a hopper, or the back of a garbage truck
  • Being pinned by a machine that rolled over
  • Getting trapped in a trench that caved in

What Types of Injuries Do Construction Accidents Cause?

According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, over a 45-year career, a construction worker has a 75 percent chance of suffering a disabling injury, and a one in 200 chance of being fatally injured. The severity of an injury depends on the circumstances of the accidents, but the following are examples of injuries that are common in the construction industry:

  • Amputations
  • Broken bones
  • Eye injuries
  • Knee and ankle injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Respiratory disease
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Death

How Can Construction Accidents Be Prevented?

Accidents can happen at construction sites, even when workers take proactive steps to make safety a priority. However, the risk of injury can be significantly reduced by taking the following preventative measures:

Preventing fall injuries:

  • Wear the recommended fall arrest equipment
  • Cover and secure all floor openings
  • Label the floor opening covers
  • Use the appropriate ladder for the job
  • Do not lead or reach too far when working from a ladder
  • Make sure scaffolding is constructed properly and inspected by qualified professionals
  • Construct guardrails on roofs, skylights, and stair openings 

Preventing injuries from falling objects:

  • Always wear the appropriate headgear
  • Before lifting a load, make sure it is properly rigged and secured
  • Keep all tools properly secured and away from open ledges
  • Make sure that materials are properly stacked and secured so that they are less likely to fall
  • Do not lift heavy loads over someone’s head
  • Use barricades to block off areas where objects are more likely to fall

Preventing electrocution injuries:

  • Before starting a job, locate and identify utilities
  • When operating equipment, look for overhead power lines
  • Maintain a safe distance when working near power lines
  • Only use portable electric tools that are grounded or double insulated
  • Always use ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection
  • Be extra cautious around electrical hazards when working on ladders, scaffolding or other elevated platforms
  • Follow proper lockout/tagout procedures so that machines do not activate unexpectedly
  • Inspect power cords and extension cords regularly, and replace if they are damaged or defective
  • Use caution when working near temporary power lines that have been installed on the construction site

Preventing caught in or between accidents:

  • Make sure that the machine is turned off before inspecting it, or performing any repairs
  • Never use machines that are not properly guarded, particular saws and other machines that have sharp blade or other parts that could cause serious injuries
  • Always use the recommended lockout-tagout procedures to ensure that the machine is turned off, and will not turn back on unexpectedly
  • When working in a trench, never enter an unprotected trench that is five feet or deeper without the necessary protective system in place
  • Make sure that the trench is protected by sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems
  • Machine guards should be in place at all times

What Damages Am I Entitled to If I Am Injured in a Construction Accident?

If you suffered a serious injury while on the job at a construction site, the injury coupled with the medical expenses and loss of income can be extremely stressful. Fortunately, you may be eligible for financial compensation by filing a Workers’ Compensation claim with your employer. A successful claim with ensure that you receive the following benefits:

  • All medical expenses related to your injury, including hospital expenses, follow-up care, surgeries, prescription medication, physical therapy and vocational rehabilitation
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Disability benefits if you are unable to return to your job in the same capacity or at all
  • Death benefits if the accident resulted in a tragic fatality

Workers’ Compensation does not provide financial compensation for pain and suffering. However, you may be able to seek additional compensation by filing a personal injury claim if a third party was involved in the accident that caused your injury. For example, if you were injured while working with a piece of heavy equipment, and you can prove that the equipment was faulty, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the company responsible for manufacturing the equipment.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Assist Victims of Construction Accidents

If you or someone you know suffered a serious construction injury, you are urged to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyer at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. Our dedicated and experienced legal team will assist you with every step of the claims process, address all of your questions and concerns and secure the maximum financial benefits to which you are entitled. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.