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The 4 most deadly hazards on construction sites

Construction workers nationwide, including those here in Illinois, face an endless list of hazards every day. Mitigating all the dangers is a daunting task because each construction site is unique. If your employer prioritizes employee safety, you have a better chance of going home safely to your loved ones every night. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration helps construction company owners to maintain safe work environments by setting strict safety standards.

OSHA underscores the hazards that account for almost 60% of construction worker fatalities, collectively known as the focus four. Learning to recognize these dangers will enable you to take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries.

Caught-in or -between hazards

These involve workers who end up crushed under or between stationary or moving objects such as the following:

  • Caught in machinery: Removing safety guards and neglecting to follow the necessary lockout/tagout procedures when cleaning, servicing or clearing jams from machines cause these accidents. Moving machine parts can snag your untied long hair, loose clothing and jewelry.
  • Cave-ins: These accidents happen when trenches are not sloped, shored or supported by trench boxes, and when you place spoils and equipment within two feet from the edges of the trench edges.
  • Crushed between objects: Moving around heavy equipment poses these risks, especially when they carry unstable or insecure loads. Wear your seat belts while operating forklifts and other machines to prevent crushing injuries if the vehicle tips over.

Struck-by objects

Falling, rolling, swinging and flying objects in the following circumstances can cause serious injuries:

  • Falling objects: Working underneath scaffolds, cranes and other elevated work areas is dangerous. In one instance, a worker dropped a tape measure, which struck and killed a co-worker 400 feet below.
  • Rolling objects: The most common cause of these accidents involves a vehicle or mobile equipment striking someone on the construction site.
  • Swinging objects: Materials lifted by mechanical equipment such as cranes and backhoes often twist, turn or swing. Make sure you stay out of the swing radius and prevent slippage by rigging loads properly — especially in windy conditions.
  • Flying objects: These pose hazards whenever you work with — or near — power tools such as nail guns and other equipment that require pulling, pushing or prying. Make sure you always wear eye and face protection.


Falls cause 40% of all fatalities on construction sites, making compliance with the following safety standards crucial:

  • Walking/working surfaces: Mark and guard all ramps, wall openings, edges, skylights and other openings when you work on roofs or other elevated areas.
  • Fall protection: Always wear fall protection when you work at elevated levels that exceed six feet, and inspect the equipment before each shift.
  • Ladders: Always maintain the three-point contact system when you use ladders, and avoid carrying loads up and down ladders. Inspect ladders before use, and make sure you place them on stable surfaces.
  • Scaffolds: Inspect fastenings, connectors, footings, planking and bracing before working on a scaffold. Properly designed scaffolds should have guardrails along all the open ends and sides, and make sure not to exceed the load capacity.
  • Housekeeping: Spilled liquids and randomly placed building materials, cleaning materials, supplies and merchandise cause slip, trip and fall hazards.

Electrical hazards

The most significant risks include contact with energized sources, overhead powerlines and improper use of electrical extension cords. Take note of the following hazards:

  • Energized sources: Defective equipment, bare or damaged wires and exposed live parts pose burn and electrical shock hazards. Always follow proper lockout/tagout procedures and report tools that produce shocks, sparks or smoke immediately.
  • Overhead powerlinesThe high voltage carried by both overhead and underground powerlines can cause electrocution, falls and severe burns. Stay 10 feet clear of overhead cables and have utility companies mark the locations of buried power cables.
  • Extension cords: Wear and tear can make extension cords dangerous. Inspect them for exposed wires, damaged insulation, unsecured or missing prongs and frayed ends, and never repair or modify them.

Despite the precautions you take, accidents happen on construction sites. If you are the victim, an experienced attorney can assist with the navigation of benefits claims through the Illinois workers’ compensation system.