Workplace safety has come a long way over the past several decades. Since 1970, the number of workplace fatalities have declined by over sixty five percent, with a similar decline in workplace related illnesses and injuries. This has happened during a period where the overall employment numbers have nearly doubled. For perspective, the average number of worker deaths in 1970 was 38 per day as opposed to 12 a day over four decades later in 2012. While there is always work to be done, the efforts of OSHA, their state partners, employers, industry officials, safety professionals and unions and their legal advocates have all played an important role.
That being said, there were 4,175 worker fatalities in 2012. 806 of those fatalities, or almost twenty percent, occurred in the construction industry. More than half of those resulted from what OSHA refers to as the “Fatal Four:”
Falls – accounting for over 34 percent of the deaths from construction related accidents,
Struck by Object – almost 10 percent of construction site deaths,
Electrocutions – over 8 percent of construction death, and
Caught-in/Between accidents – representing 1.3 percent of construction area deaths.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that if we could eliminate these “Fatal Four,” we could save 437 American worker lives every year.
Not surprisingly then, it was interesting to note the most frequently cited OSHA standards violated in 2013 track closely to the “Fatal Four”:
1. Fall protection
2. Hazard Communication
4. Respiratory Protection
5. Electrical: Wiring
6. Powered Industrial Trucks
9. Electrical: systems design
10. Machine Guarding
We know where the problems are. We need to simply continue our vigilance and our efforts to make certain that our construction site and workplace environments are kept as safe as possible for our American workers.