The summer is a high time for the Colorado construction industry. June and July are also when construction workers are getting hurt most often.
On average, we receive more claims on June 28 and July 20 than any other days of the year. From 2016 to 2022, businesses filed an average of 256 claims on each day. June 28 claims costs totaled $4.5 million, with an average of $17,427 per claim. July 20 totaled $2.265 million, with an average of $8,851 per claim.
Why do more accidents occur on these days than others?
Several factors may be involved, including higher temperatures. Summer weather contributes to heat stress, which can lead to poor decision-making and an increase in the time it takes to complete higher-risk outdoor work. Skilled labor shortages in general and those related to vacations and the employment environment can also be factors.
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 jobsite,” says Pinnacol Senior Safety Consultant Corey Rupp, M.Eng., CSP.
How are construction workers getting hurt?
Getting struck by objects or moving parts, falling or lifting leads to the largest number of accidents. Other frequent causes of claims include cuts and burns, slips and falls, and motor vehicle accidents. Contusions, strains, lacerations, sprains and punctures 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 numbers 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 like texting while driving improve driver safety.
“Look to purchase vehicles with built-in safety systems such as forward and reverse automatic braking, lane departure warning and blind zone alerts. Also, train employees on the type of driving they will encounter on the job, whether that’s highway, surface streets or mountain driving, to name a few,” says Rupp.
Get Pinnacol’s safe driving resources to find out how to prevent these accidents in various conditions and industries.
Lifting injuries are often caused by using improper technique or not seeking assistance from others with heavy or awkward lifts. Lack of experience at a worksite 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
- Use mechanical assistance whenever feasible
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 lack of situational awareness, fatigue 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
- Toeboards 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 store flammables and combustibles away from ignition sources and provide easily accessible fire extinguishers, gloves and other personal protective equipment. Rags soaked in oil-based substances, such as paints, stains, lacquers and varnishes, should be stored in water or approved metal containers until properly disposed of off-site.
Slips and falls
Keeping jobsites 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