The Fatal Four are the four types of injuries that cause over half of construction fatalities every year. The Fatal Four are 1) falls, 2) electrocutions, 3) struck-by-objects, and 4) caught-in or caught-between objects. The good news is that all of these fatal accidents can be avoided. Let’s consider what you can do so that you don’t become a Fatal Four statistic.
Falls are still the leading cause of death in the construction industry. They account for 35% of all construction related deaths. Preventing falls could save over 400 lives each year—one of them could be yours. The first step in preventing falls is avoid putting yourself at risk. Keep away from open-sided floors, unprotected edges, unguarded elevator shafts, and open mechanical shafts. Anytime you are over 6 feet off of the ground, make sure fall protection gear is in place. Keep yourself behind physical barriers such as a guardrail or be sure that you’re wearing a full harness and that you’re properly tied off. If any guardrails are damaged or missing, they need to be fixed right away. Choose the right ladder. Always inspect it before you use it, and place it on a level and stable surface.
Electrocutions can be avoided. Coming in contact with a live power line can kill you. Look up and check for overhead powerlines. Have all buried utilities marked before you dig. Keep a safe distance away from power lines and keep a safe distance away from heavy equipment that is operating near power lines. Read and follow lockout/tag out procedures. Working on energized systems is strictly prohibited unless you are trained to do so. Respect electricity; don’t be complacent, even if its “only” 120-volt house service. Use double-insulated tools or a GFCI. Inspect cords for cuts, damaged insulation, exposed wires, or missing ground prongs. We’ve all used a tool or a cord that we know we shouldn’t have. Since we’re here, we must have been lucky. Don’t trust Lady Luck with your life—don’t use damaged cords and tools; replace them.
Struck-By-Object accidents cause almost 10% of construction fatalities. First, prevent falling objects. Make sure that toe boards are installed. Keep material away from the edges of floors and scaffolds. Second, don’t get hit. Avoid working under scaffolds and aerial lifts. Watch for moving equipment and vehicles. Always wear your hard hat!
Caught-in or caught-between accidents happen when workers are caught in or crushed by heavy equipment or objects. Stay outside of the swing radius of heavy equipment like cranes and backhoes. Never put yourself between a fixed object and a moving object. Don’t enter an unprotected trench. It only takes a second – literally – to get buried under tons of soil.
You can avoid the Fatal Four: pay attention, think, make good decisions, and stay alive.