Since its formation under the 1970 OSH Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency has had one primary mission: to assure safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. As such, by law, private sector, state and local government, and federal government agency employers must provide their workers with a workplace that is free of known hazards, find and correct safety and health problems, and follow all OSH Act safety and health standards. However, until a few years ago, OSHA lacked data for where and how the most severe injuries were occurring, limiting how effectively the agency could respond.
In January 2015, a new rule—OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program—took effect, requiring employers to report any work-related amputation, in-patient hospitalization or loss of eye to OSHA within 24 hours.
According to David Michaels, author of the report Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation, stated “Too often, we would investigate a fatal injury only to find a history of serious injuries at the same workplace. Each of those injuries was a wake-up call for safety that went unheeded.”
Thus, the new reporting requirements were created for two reasons:
- To allow the agency to better target their compliance assistance and enforcement efforts to places where workers are at greatest risk.
- To encourage high-violation employers to identify and eliminate serious hazards from their workplaces.
The intention of the new severe injury reporting requirement isn’t to shut down worksites. Rather, by requiring employers to report these injuries, OSHA can better work with employers to eliminate hazards and protect other workers from the same injuries in the future, encouraging employers to become proactive in prevention, and thereby, create safer workplaces.
Safety on Construction Sites
Construction jobsites, by nature, are rife with hazards—hazards that have the potential to cause severe and even fatal incidents. In OSHA’s most recent severe injury report, there were close to 40,000 injuries documented from 2015-2018, and predictably, the construction industry accounted for nearly 20% of the incidents, with over 7,000 severe injuries reported. Transhield, the creators of advanced protective cover technology and TopCure—a concrete curing cover that reduces the rate of evaporation and retains moisture resulting in greater top layer strength—has compiled a list of the five most common causes of severe injuries in the construction field, along with the best procedures and technology to prevent them from occurring.
While injuries can occur at nearly any height level, typically resulting in bone fractures to the legs, wrists, ankles, arms, hips, and more, the most common places for falls to occur are ladders, scaffolds, and rooftops. To help prevent falls:
- Ladders should always be inspected before use—clean off any residues that might cause a slipping hazard, and discard if any structural deficiencies or improperly functioning locking mechanisms are detected. Also, ensure solid placement on a strong, stable surface and that workers always keep a three-point contact on the ladder while climbing, using a spotter at the bottom of the ladder to reinforce stability.
- Rooftops should always be analyzed before use, checking for steep points, slippery areas, roof edges, and holes/openings in the roof. Utilize covers to mitigate holes/openings, guard rails to call out roof edges and fall points, warning signs to highlight slippery points, and employ personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) when working on steep inclines.
- Scaffolding should always be constructed by experienced teams or professional engineers. Before every use, inspect the structure for visible defects, ensuring the scaffold is on a solid base with a base plate, all fittings are tightly secured, and that handrails and guardrails are in place. Workers working on scaffolds higher than 10 feet should use a personal fall arrest system for added security.
(2) Compressed or pinched by shifting objects or equipment
While unpredictable, these injuries typically occur when a worker has a body part, or their entire body, caught in between moving objects or shifting equipment on a jobsite—such as when a heavy object being loaded slips and falls, crushing an extremity of a worker—most commonly causing injuries to the hands and fingers, and often resulting in amputations. To help prevent object or equipment compression or pinching:
- Employees involved in the operating, setting up, repairing, and cleaning of hazardous power tools—which typically include components that have a rotating motion, back and forth motion, cutting action, punching action, bending action, or general hazardous mechanical motion—must be warned of the potential hazard to themselves and to others.
- Machinery that poses a hazard at the point of operation, or through its various moving parts, should be safeguarded via guards that act as a barrier that physically prevents exposure to a dangerous area of the machine, and safeguarding devices that turn a machine off when contact with a point of operation or hazardous component is detected.
- Workers should be trained to employ a 360˚ line of site around them, while taking care to never be caught standing between an immobile object and a moving object.
(3) Injured by slipping or swinging object held by injured worker
Typically resulting in cuts, punctures, lacerations, and amputations of or to the arms, hands, lower legs, and fingers, these injuries are self-inflicted by a worker, normally while operating machinery or power tools—such as an employee using a nail gun who slips and punctures his hand. To help prevent or reduce a self-inflicted injury, workers should:
- · De-energize tools while physically moving, or changing positions.
- · Remain aware of footing to avoid slipping.
- · Implement safeguards on power tools and machinery.
- · Wear more robust Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), i.e., tough gloves, eyewear, steel-toe boots, etc.
(4) Struck by objects or equipment
A “struck by” injury can be any incident caused by any forcible blow or impact between an object or piece of equipment and the worker, including flying, falling, swinging, and rolling objects, and often results in brain concussions and fractures to the hands, legs, chest, arms etc. To prevent struck by incidents, proper boundaries should be set and risks should be clearly communicated to workers:
- Ensure that all heavy equipment (bulldozers, cranes, excavators, etc.) is in proper working condition, and create designated areas for heavy equipment operation, clearly marking a danger zone around the object if it’s stationary while clearly marking off road ways for safe equipment movement.
- All heavy equipment should have a functioning reverse signal alarm, and spotters should be employed when reversing/moving into blind spots.
- For motor vehicles (pedestrian trucks, cars, etc.), all necessary hazard signs as required by OSHA (“construction ahead”, “road work ahead”, etc.) should be posted with strong barriers erected between the trafficked road and jobsite, with workers wearing fluorescent colors to maximize visibility.
- Flying and falling objects (projectiles from tools, stored material falling, etc.) can be reduced by ensuring all power tools are in safe working order, as well as training workers to remain cognizant of their surroundings, to wear PPE, and to know the hazards of specific tools.
(5) Exposure to environmental heat
Working for long hours in high temperatures can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke, with symptoms that include nausea, headaches, lightheadedness and vomiting. Heat exposure can be mitigated by:
- Ensuring workers stay hydrated—employees should be encouraged to drink 80-120 ounces of water every day.
- Providing water breaks and shade to eliminate heat exhaustion.
Transhield is Invested in Worker Safety
With thousands of construction workers severely injured and killed every year, preventing these common incidents from occurring is critical. Creating a safer jobsite begins by implementing standards and technologies which can safeguard workers from potential dangers. The concrete curing market has supplied the industry with a plethora of curing compound and curing blanket options over the years; however, until now, an emphasis on safety has often been disregarded.
When Transhield entered the concrete curing realm, their mission was to provide a superior cure while engendering a safer construction job site. From careful research and analysis, Transhield developed TopCure—a 7-day wet cure cover that controls moisture loss for a steady and strong cure while addressing the key areas of safety concern cited by contractors and industry stakeholders: slippery surfaces conducive to slip and falls, and tearing and/or wrinkling that results in trip and fall hazards.
Using a resin with a high coefficient of friction paired with a grit, textured surface, TopCure is an anti-slip, grit surface that prevents slips and falls. Engineered with Transhield’s patented cover technology for durability in the harshest elements, Top Cure is tear- and rip-resistant, providing a safer surface for workers to traverse. Further, to maintain moisture, TopCure is engineered by fusing a thin film with a clean nonwoven that boasts a non-marking honeycomb pattern that works to cover the slab surface evenly, creating a flat expanse with less wrinkling and less risk for tripping.
As a concrete curing cover that reduces the rate of evaporation and retains moisture resulting in greater top layer durability, TopCure was designed with worker safety in mind. Although a small, incremental change that can be used in conjunction with other practices to enhance safety for construction workers, TopCure has the potential to have a big impact on overall workplace safety. To learn more about TopCure from Transhield, visit https://transhield-usa.com/material/topcure/.
About the Author
Mindy directs, manages, and implements the marketing strategy of Transhield through a variety of methods and channels. In addition to leading Transhield’s marketing efforts, Mindy is the lead sales specialist for TopCure – Transhield's newest product; a concrete curing cover designed with safety in mind. Mindy is a member of the American Society of Concrete Contractors, the American Concrete Institute, and the Indiana Ready Mixed Concrete Association.