As your business confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s also crucial to continue taking proactive safety measures to keep your construction workers safe. The summer is a high time for the Colorado construction industry, and June and July are also the months when construction workers are getting hurt most often.
On average, Pinnacol receives more claims on June 27 and July 11 than any other days of the year. From 2015 to 2019, businesses filed an average of 191 claims on each of these two days.
Why do more accidents occur on these days than others?
Several factors may be involved, including higher temperatures that contribute to heat stress that can lead to poor decision-making, a rise in time performing higher-risk outdoor activities and labor shortages related to vacations.
The seasonal surge in the construction workforce also means greater numbers of new and inexperienced workers, who account for a disproportionately high number of injuries, our data shows.
“Employers should thoroughly train all new employees on the specific hazards and safety controls before working on the job site,” says Pinnacol Senior Safety Consultant Corey Rupp, MEng, CSP.
How are construction workers getting hurt?
Getting struck by objects or moving parts, being caught by machinery, and lifting-related mishaps lead to the largest number of accidents. Other frequent causes of claims include cuts and burns, slips and falls, and motor vehicle accidents. Strains, contusions, sprains and lacerations are the top injuries reported on both days. Read on to find out more about why these injuries are taking place and what you can do to help.
Motor vehicle accidents
Motor vehicle accidents increase in number because more construction workers are on the road in the summer, road construction is up and overall traffic increases due to tourism. Wearing seatbelts, obeying speed limits and avoiding distractions such as texting while driving improve driver safety.
“Monitoring speeding, braking and acceleration with phone apps or onboard diagnostic port devices, as well as vehicle safety systems such as automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring, can also be helpful,” says Rupp.
Read Pinnacol’s motor vehicle accident profile to find out more about when and how these accidents happen.
Lifting injuries are often caused by using improper techniques or not seeking assistance from others with heavy or awkward lifts. Lack of experience at a work site can worsen these problems, so demonstrate proper lifting techniques, such as:
- Keep backs straight
- Rely on leg muscles to perform the work
- Avoid twisting and bending
Struck-by injuries happen when workers are struck by heavy equipment or objects from elevated surfaces. These can occur when worksite protections are lax. A reduced number of workers on a job and hot weather contribute to safety oversights. You can decrease struck-by injuries by implementing:
- Traffic patterns on worksites
- Spotters for vehicles/equipment traveling through congested areas
- Backup alarm testing
- Toe boards on guardrails
- Wearing hard hats, eye/face protection and high-visibility clothing, even in high temperatures
Caught injuries include trench cave-ins, being pulled into rotating or moving equipment by contacting unguarded belts or wheels, and getting caught between crane loads or heavy equipment and stationary objects. Decrease risk by:
- Appropriate sloping or shoring of excavations
- Properly de-energizing and locking out equipment and tools before performing maintenance or making repairs
- Ensuring that adequate guards are in place
- Preplanning to ensure workers have adequate space to work
Cuts and burns
Workers may start new jobs on unfamiliar job sites in the summer, and they may not be familiar with the equipment on the site. They may not know they can avoid cuts by getting rid of damaged equipment or using properly guarded tools. To prevent worker burns, employers should provide easily accessible fire extinguishers, gloves and other personal protective equipment. Properly store or dispose of combustible items in water or appropriate closed metal containers, too.
Slips and falls
Keeping job sites well-organized can slash slip and fall accident rates. Slick walking areas or work surfaces also contribute to falls. Train new employees to clean up their clutter and spills. Employers should also:
- Provide guardrails on elevated and open-sided work surfaces
- Cover holes
- Tie off ladders