Fatal Four Hazards In Construction Safety Toolbox Talk

The construction site can be a dangerous place. Learn of the four fatal hazards in construction and how to avoid them.

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Fatal Four Hazards In Construction Safety Talk

Construction sites are full of many hazards and are one of the most dangerous workplaces in the country. The risks workers face every day are dangerous and can result in various injuries and even death. The construction industry has the highest fatal injury rate and it is the top in workplace fatalities. OSHA has determined that there are four main safety hazards that are responsible for a majority of workers' deaths on construction sites. These four hazards are called the "Fatal Four" by OSHA. These four types of hazards are falls, electrocution, struck by, and caught-in or in between. In past years the "Fatal Four" has been responsible for over 60% of all construction workers' deaths.


Falls are the number one cause of fatal injuries in the construction work field. In 2017 they accounted for 39% of the fatalities. The main causes of construction site falls are unprotected edges and opening, improper scaffolding construction or use, and improper ladder use. Fall Protection is required by OSHA if you are working at a height of 6 feet or more or anytime someone is working over dangerous machinery and equipment. If working on scaffolds fall protection must be provided if working 10 feet or more above the lower level. Examples of fall protection are guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems.

Falls From Scaffolding

When using scaffolding ensure they comply with manufacturer and OSHA standards. Place them on stable ground and inspect them before each use. Scaffolds should be used if you are higher than 6 feet above a lower level. If you are using a ladder on a construction site make sure you are using the correct ladder for the job. Always use a ladder on flat, level ground. Do not overload the ladder, and make sure to face the ladder when climbing and maintain 3 points of contact at all times. Some ways to prevent falls include:

  • Wear and use personal fall arrest equipment
  • Install and maintain perimeter protection
  • Cover and secure floor openings and label floor opening covers
  • Use ladders and scaffolds safely
  • Electrocution

    Next in line for the cause of construction site injuries and fatalities is electrocution. This results when a person is exposed to a lethal amount of electrical energy. An electrical hazard can be defined as a serious workplace hazard that exposes workers to the following:

  • Burns
  • Electrocution
  • Shock
  • Arc flash/ arc blast
  • Fire
  • Explosions
  • Major types of electrocution incidents come from failure to recognize and come into contact with energized sources. Other causes are an improper use of extension and flexible cords and contact with overhead power lines. Ways to prevent electrocution include:

  • Locate and identify utilities before starting work.
  • Look for overhead power lines when operating any equipment.
  • Maintain a safe distance away from power lines.
  • Do not operate portable electric tools unless they are grounded and double insulated.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters for protection.
  • Be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds, or other platforms.
  • Struck By

    Struck by injuries occur when a worker comes into forcible contact with a flying, falling, swinging, or rolling object. According to OSHA, the reason fatalities are so high with incidents is due to the numerous hazards that can create injuries. The 4 common hazards in construction are:

    1. 1. Struck by falling objects- These injuries can encompass everything from tools and materials being knocked off unprotected edges to a suspended load on a crane coming loose.
    2. 2. Struck by flying objects- this can include being struck by an accidental nail gun discharge, thrown tolls or debris, or the tip flying off a saw blade.
    3. 3. Struck by swinging objects- These injuries are caused by swinging objects and usually occur when materials are being moved and something causes the load to sway. Can also happen when a worker is inside the swing radius of a heavy piece of machinery.
    4. 4. Struck by rolling objects- Injuries caused by rolling objects usually involves a worker being struck by a vehicle or heavy piece of machinery while it is in motion. This can also include any object that rolls, moves, or slides on the same level as the worker.

    Ways to prevent struck-by incidents include:

  • Never position yourself between moving and fixed objects.
  • Wear high visibility clothes near equipment and vehicles.
  • Wear personal protective equipment including hard hats and eye safety.
  • Be alert of all work areas.
  • Caught In/between

    Caught in/between hazards are caused when a worker is compressed between or gets caught in equipment or objects. It can also include a worker getting killed by getting caught, stuck, or crushed from materials, equipment, or a collapsing structure.

    Some examples of being caught in or in between are getting your hand caught in a moving part of the equipment, being buried by trench cave-ins, and getting pinned between a wall and a piece of heavy equipment. These accidents are similar to struck-by incidents with the main difference being that these accidents are a result of crushing injuries, not the initial impact as they are with struck-by accidents. Ways to prevent caught in and caught between injuries include:

  • Never enter an unprotected trench or excavation 5 feet or deeper without an adequate protective system in place.
  • Make sure trench or excavation is protected either by sloping, shoring, benching, or trench field systems.
  • Only operate machinery with safety guards that are in place and working.
  • Never wear loose clothing or anything that could hang down and get caught in moving parts.
  • Never place yourself between a moving object and a wall.
  • Never overload or overwork a piece of heavy equipment.
  • This is a quick overview and some examples of the fatal four in the construction industry. Also listed are some basic ways to prevent these injuries. It is important that workers understand these types of hazards and know how to prevent them. Evaluate your tasks and your work areas every day and before you start a new project for any of these types of hazards. Let a supervisor know should you see anything that could cause an injury.

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