Common Construction Workplace Injuries

 Thankfully, we’ve seen a lot of improvements in what used to be very dangerous jobs; from mining and railroad construction to building high rises and homes, we’ve come to realize ways we can prevent injuries from happening in the first place.

Common Construction Workplace Injuries

Making Jobs Safer

The introduction of labor laws eliminated the practice of child labor in the 1920s and started to make many jobs safer. However, without constant diligence, some jobs still put us at risk when we clock in every day.

Top Injuries in Construction

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), on-the-job deaths in 2019 were recorded at 5,333, with 20% of those deaths being in the field of construction.

Top 5 OSHA Violations in 2019-2020

  • Fall Protection Violations
  • Hazard Communication Violations
  • Respiratory Protection Violations
  • Scaffolding Requirement Violations
  • Ladders Use Violations

Violating the workplace safety practices established and regulated by OSHA can result in myriad injuries, with the most common in construction being related to falls from a solid structure, scaffolding, or ladder.

Other common construction site injuries include: 

  • Electric shock
  • Burns
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Exposure injuries (due to not wearing proper protective gear)
  • Reaction to extreme heat or cold

In landscaping, the most common injuries reported are as follows:

  • Lacerations, cuts, or amputations from plants or equipment
  • Heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Lifting and hunching postures
  • Loss of hearing (due to machinery used)

Improving your yard or building a new patio doesn’t come without risk for workers. If you’re having work done on your home to improve your outdoor living space, there are things you can do to help create a safe environment, although it is not your responsibility to ensure the workers are practicing workplace safety.

  • Keep pets and children away from the worksite
  • Remove outdoor toys and furniture so there are clear paths for workers
  • Unlock gates so the crew has access to necessary areas without obstruction
  • Consider providing drinks throughout the day (cold during summer, warm during winter)

Avoiding Construction Injuries

In general, there are a lot of practices in place to help avoid construction site injuries. It may seem overkill to have daily meetings to discuss the conditions and expectations of the workplace, but it’s worth saving lives.

  • Provide adequate safety training
  • Provide and use protective gear - reflective clothing, eye protection, gloves, hard hats, etc...
  • Hold daily safety meetings
  • Keep a tidy workspace - properly dispose of trash or recyclable materials
  • Allow adequate time for completing projects
  • Allow for breaks to refuel and get out of inclement weather
  • Perform regular equipment maintenance and site inspections
  • Look for early warning signs (malfunctioning equipment, dangerous working conditions)
  • Have clear signals to communicate warnings - signage and verbiage

Dangerous Jobs That No Longer Exist

Thanks to improved technology and labor laws that regulate working conditions, there are a lot of dangerous jobs that have gone the way of the dinosaurs. 

Breaker Boy

Until the 1920s, pre-teen boys and elderly men were employed to perform quality control on coal. These Breaker Boys removed impure pieces of coal by hand, often in dangerous conditions for up to ten hours every day. Without sophisticated equipment or protective gear, the boys suffered injuries including cuts, amputation of limbs, and even death by smothering. Like the miners themselves, Breaker Boys lived with asthma and “black lung disease” (also known as pneumoconiosis) as a result of prolonged exposure to coal dust.

Ice Cutter

The next time you push your glass against a panel in your fridge and dispense perfectly formed pebbles of ice, think about how long it took to get to have access to this modern convenience. Before refrigerators and freezers became commonplace in the late 1920s, ice cutters (i.e. Kristoff from Frozen) were used to extract large blocks of ice from lakes and rivers. This dangerous job involved manually cutting the ice into blocks and transporting them to an ice house for distribution to the public.

Log Driver

While waterways are still used for moving cut timber to the mills, it’s no longer common practice to have a man riding the logs. The log driver was responsible for getting the logs out of jams, allowing the timber to continue floating downriver to the mill. As if riding the logs wasn’t dangerous enough, sometimes the driers used dynamite to dislodge backed-up timber. Thankfully, railroad development offered a less dangerous method for transporting timber from cut sites to mills, and log drivers no longer had to risk their lives on the water.

Why These Dangerous Jobs Still Exist

Although some jobs still come with inherent risks, our world depends on the goods and services they provide. 

Logging

Although log driving jobs have dried job, the logging industry is still one of the most dangerous manual labor jobs out there. The combination of unpredictable weather, heavy machinery, and noise makes for a dangerous worksite where accidents happen.

Mining

Thankfully, ten-year-olds are not commonly employed as miners anymore. However, mining is still a dangerous job. Despite better regulations regarding preventing mine collapse and monitoring air quality, working underground can still be unpleasant. Miners face the risk of cave-ins, explosions, respiratory illness, and extreme heat or cold temperatures. Until we can learn to live without the raw materials for which we mine, this profession is sticking around for the long haul.

Besides elimination the position of Breaker Boys, mining benefits from improvements in measuring seismic activity, monitoring of toxic gases, ventilation, and automation of certain tasks.

Roofing

A call-back to construction-related injuries, roofing specifically is a dangerous job since it combines heavy materials, ladders, and elevated (literally!) working conditions. Since workplace falls are typically the number-one cause of injury in construction, it goes without saying that roofing creates a “perfect storm” scenario for accidents.

Iron Works

As long as high-rise buildings and earthquake-safe structures are still in demand, ironworkers will continue to take risks every time they show up for work. They’re not only at risk for potential falls, but for injuries when using equipment to unload iron, cut it, bend it, and weld it. We’d suggest building homes out of wood instead, but we all know logging is the most dangerous job in America so…

Thankfully, with due diligence, these jobs don’t have to take as many lives as they have in the past. Implementation of proper training and safety regulations can reduce the number of risk workers face after they clock in. 


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