Working in construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Each year, hundreds of construction workers are killed on the job, and far more suffer serious and debilitating injuries. The true number of non-fatal injuries is unknown, because many of these injuries go unreported.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Oregon and Washington both see a significant number of serious and fatal construction accidents each year. For example, of the 971 fatal construction accidents in 2017, 41 (more than four percent) occurred in Oregon and Washington. Based on population figures, Oregon’s rate of fatal construction accidents was slightly below the national average while Washington’s was slightly above.
Oregon Fatal Construction Accident Statistics
In Oregon and nationwide, the largest percentage of construction-related fatalities result from transportation accidents according to the DOL’s data. Accounting for 48 percent of deaths, this includes collisions on the highway and other roads throughout Oregon. Following vehicle collisions, the leading causes of job-related fatalities in Oregon across all sectors are:
- Contact with objects and equipment (22 percent)
- Violence and other injuries caused by persons or animals (10 percent)
- Slips, trips, and falls from height (10 percent)
Washington Fatal Construction Accident Statistics
The largest percentage of job-related fatalities in Washington result from transportation accidents as well – although Washington’s rate is slightly lower than the national average. According to the DOL’s data, after vehicle collisions, the most-common causes of fatal job-related accidents in Washington are:
- Slips, trips and falls from height (31 percent)
- Violence and other injuries caused by persons or animals (15 percent)
- Contact with objects and equipment (12 percent)
The “Fatal Four”: The Leading Causes of Construction-Site Fatalities
After vehicle collisions, there are four causes of fatal construction site accidents, which are so consistent and prevalent, that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has dubbed them the “Fatal Four.” Nationally, falls account for nearly 40 percent of all construction worker deaths, while electrocutions, being struck by objects, and getting caught in or between objects account for another 21 percent. This includes fatal accidents in which construction workers get caught in moving equipment, struck by falling or collapsing structures, and crushed under loads of construction materials.
According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, the types of construction workers who are most likely to be killed on the job are general laborers. After general laborers, those who are most at risk are:
- Truck drivers
- HVAC mechanics
- Construction managers
- Brick masons
- Drywall installers
The 10 Most Frequently Cited Safety Violations on Construction Sites
In many cases, fatal and non-fatal accidents on construction sites are the result of safety violations. Federal regulations and laws in Oregon and Washington establish safety standards for construction sites and other job sites. And while compliance is mandatory, violations are alarmingly common. According to OSHA, the 10 most frequently cited federal safety standard violations are:
1. Inadequate Fall Protection
Common safety violations contributing to serious and fatal falls on construction sites include failing to guard floor holes, failing to install guardrails and toe boards, failing to keep walking surfaces clear of construction materials and debris, and failing to provide harnesses and other necessary types of safety equipment.
2. Inadequate Hazard Communication Standards
Violations in this area relate primarily to improper labeling and training regarding the identification and classification of toxic chemicals and other hazardous materials.
3. Scaffolding Violations
Working on scaffolding can be extremely dangerous, and the risks for workers are multiplied when scaffolding is not constructed and secured appropriately. Other risks include exceeding the weight rating for scaffolding, using old and unsafe scaffolding, and failing to provide workers with adequate safety equipment.
4. Inadequate Respiratory Protection
Exposure to fumes, chemical vapors, and particulates can lead to respiratory diseases, various forms of cancer, and other potentially severe internal injuries. OHSA regulations require companies to provide construction workers with respirators equipped with filters that are appropriate to the particular exposure risk at hand.
5. Failure to Adequately Control Hazardous Energy
On construction sites, contractors must follow appropriate lockout/tagout procedures in order to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous energy releases. Construction workers who are working in the vicinity of a hazardous energy source must be properly trained on these procedures and other risk mitigation techniques as well.
6. Ladder Violations
Unsafe ladders are a leading cause of serious falls on construction sites. In order to reduce the risk of serious injury, workers must be provided with ladders that are stable and in good working order and extension ladders must be long enough to reach safely above the top of the worker’s climb.
7. Violations Involving Powered Industrial Trucks
Powered industrial trucks (forklifts and lift trucks) present many safety risks for the operator and other workers in the vicinity. In order to reduce the risk of injury, forklifts and lift trucks must be adequately maintained, operators must be properly trained, and there must be sufficient room for the forklift or lift truck to maneuver safely.
8. Inadequate Fall Protection Training
In addition to providing workers with adequate fall protection, contractors and subcontractors must provide workers with adequate fall protection training as well. This training should help workers to be able to identify fall risks and know when safety equipment is required.
9. Inadequate Machine Guarding
Inadequate machine guarding can cause the loss of digits and limbs, the crushing and fracture of bones, severe burns, and other debilitating (and potentially life-threatening) injuries. In order to avoid these risks, power tools, construction equipment, and other types of heavy machinery must have appropriate guards installed.
10. Inadequate Eye and Face Protection
Failing to provide construction workers with safety glasses, masks, and other appropriate forms of eye and face protection can result in severe injuries. These include jaw and nose fractures, eye injuries resulting in blindness, concussions, and other types of traumatic head injuries.
Speak with a Construction Accident Lawyer at D’Amore Law Group
If you have been injured or a loved one has lost his or her life on a construction site in Oregon or Washington, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation about your legal rights. Speak with an experienced construction accident lawyer at D’Amore Law Group. Tom D’Amore is a board certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Please call us or request an appointment online today.