By {{Article.AuthorName}} | {{Article.PublicationDate.slice(6, -2) | date:'EEEE, MMMM d, y'}}
{{TotalFavorites}} Favorite{{TotalFavorites>1? 's' : ''}}

The construction industry faces many dangers every day because of the nature of the job. At their simplest, jobsite safety incidents can cause major emotional stress and breakdown of project timelines and impact a company’s reputation. At their worst, jobsite incidents can be fatal.

The top four causes of jobsite fatalities, in order of frequency, are falls, getting caught in equipment or tight spaces, being struck by an object and electrocution. There are best practices to avoid each type of incident andwhen practiced together consistentlythe combination of these efforts can create a culture that improves overall site safety. 


Falling is the leading cause of construction fatalities. To prevent this type of incident, there are several precautions to be taken and standards to be adhered to. These vary based on the height and type of job, but the following are best to implement if heights are involved, no matter the project:

Guardrails: A guardrail should have a post every eight feet. There should be a toeboard at four inches high, a midrail at 21 inches and a top rail at 42 inches. 

Hole covers: A hole should be marked and labeled. Hole covers should be anchored and secured in place and be able to support twice the intended load.

Nets: Nets are engineered for a specific use, and each net should be used for its intended purpose.

Personal fall arrest systems: This personal protective system should be the last line of defense, since these systems aren’t intended to stop a fall. Instead, they are designed to prevent an employee from striking a lower level. These systems should include a full-body harness, a connecting lanyard, an anchor point and a descent/rescue plan should a fall occur.

Getting caught in, under or between

Getting caught—whether in machinery or tight or treacherous spaces—is the second leading cause of fatalities, as most of these fatalities occur due to lack of or inappropriate use of excavation protective systems, such as benching, shoring and shielding devices. Trench boxes prevent soil cave-ins, and aluminum hydraulic shoring can prevent soil movement. Never enter a trench unless the following questions have been answered: 

1. Has it been properly inspected by a professional?

2. Does it have a protective system in place? 

3. Is there a safe way to enter and exit?

4. Are equipment and materials at least two feet away from the edge?

5. Is it free of standing water and atmospheric hazards?

Being struck

An incident where a worker is struck—by cranes, building materials, masonry walls, tools and/or vehicles—is the third leading cause of construction fatalities. Workers can identify and be proactive against these hazards in the following ways: 

When assessing risks on the jobsite, everyone should learn to use their EYES, which stands for Evaluate Your Entire Surroundings. By identifying hazards, such as the path of a crane’s lift while supplies are being delivered, a new phase of work on an upper level or mobile equipment movement, employees can make good decisions about avoiding the risk of being struck by these items.

Additionally, every worker should be outfitted appropriately to match the risks of their jobsite. That means all workers should have safety glasses, hard hats, gloves, leather work shoes or boots, high-visibility shirts or vests, shirts with four-inch sleeves and pants. These aren’t just for looks. Each article provides a baseline level of protection or visibility that improves the chances of safety for everyone, not just the person wearing them. 


Electrocution is the fourth leading cause of construction fatalities. This can occur when employees contact power lines, do not have ground-fault protection, do not use equipment as prescribed or improperly use extension cords. Construction workers should:

1. Be trained in electrical safety.

2. Ensure machinery and power tools are properly grounded or double-insulated.

3. Check all power cords and extension cords for wear and tear before use.

4. Disconnect the plug on any power tool or machinery before an inspection or repair.

5. Keep at least 10 feet away from live overhead power lines.

6. Keep metal objects away from live electrical circuits/parts.

7. Conduct daily job safety and hazard analyses.

Referring to OSHA’s Job Hazard Analysis is a systematic way to help improve jobsite safety every day, for every project, on every jobsite. Questions to defer to the analysis might include:

1. What work is going to be completed?

2. Who will be doing the work?

3. What tools, equipment and materials are needed to safely perform the work?

4. What work hazards will be present?

5. How will the hazards be controlled?

6. Is special training required?

7. Do all workers have personal protective equipment (PPE)?

8. Is there any other important information that needs to be shared?

Emergency response

If an emergency does occur, time is critical. The first thing that should be done is to make sure the scene is safe so that no other employees are at risk for being injured. Once secure, evaluate employee injuries. Call 911 if the injury is life-threatening. Be sure that employees are aware of the address of the jobsite. Often, this important detail—or lack thereof—causes delays in emergency response. 

If injuries are non-life-threatening, consider using a nurse hotline to get an opinion on next steps. Some insurance companies offer this service free to customers who have workers’ compensation. A hotline can help determine proper care and level of medical facility the employee should be brought to, from an urgent-care clinic to an emergency room. Once the employee is in treatment, follow up on the incident by completing an accident investigation, correcting any hazards, conducting a safety meeting with all employees and checking on everyone involved (directly or tangentially) to make sure they are safe and/or recovering.

Lead by example

Equally as important as having relevant safety rules and offering regular and ongoing safety training is for all employees (including managers) to lead by example by wearing PPE, following safety rules and addressing safety in every meeting. Employees will notice if contractors don’t follow through when it comes to safety, and it will show on the jobsite. 


 Comments ({{Comments.length}})

  • {{comment.Name}}


    {{comment.DateCreated.slice(6, -2) | date: 'MMM d, y h:mm:ss a'}}

Leave a comment

Required! Not valid email!