How to Prevent the 3 Costliest Injuries in Construction
The total cost of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the construction industry is estimated at nearly $13 billion annually, with injuries resulting in days away from work representing 60% of the total cost. This hefty price tag includes direct costs from medical bills and workers’ compensation payments, and indirect costs from lost wages and productivity.
It’s important to know which injuries are costing your business the most money so you can put an end to those accidents. The top three costliest injuries for construction are overexertion, falls, and struck by an object.
There were 129,220 incidents of overexertion in 2013, the most recent year for which we have valid injury data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overexertion injuries led to an average of 10 days away from work and cost employers (in total) $15.1 billion.
Overexertion occurs when a worker is injured from attempting to lift, pull, push, hold, carry, wield, or throw an object. This often happens when the worker is trying to handle an object that’s heavier than what they can carry, or lift from a shelf that’s too high. The injury results in a sprain, strain, or tear, and can occur from a single event or from repetitive exertions.
Pre-employment testing and ergonomics are the best ways to prevent overexertion injuries. A pre-employment Human Performance Evaluation can assess an applicant's ability to perform the essential job functions, so you know before hiring if an employee can handle a certain weight load. An ergonomic evaluation can help identify overexertion risk factors and recommend modifications to reduce injuries.
Falls on the same level (like slips and trips) and falls to a lower level (like falling from a stepstool) come in at the second and third priciest injuries, respectively. Together, these falls resulted in 242,250 injuries in 2013, costing employers $15.6 billion and keeping employees away from work an average of 15 days.
To prevent these types of falls, excluding those from higher elevations, employers should focus on the work area and using personal protective equipment.
Work areas should always be well lit, and should remain free of clutter. Make sure equipment, boxes, and furniture stay against walls so they aren’t easily tripped over. Require workers to wear proper footwear with good traction to avoid slipping on slick surfaces, ladders, and stepstools.
3. Struck by Object
Being struck by an object caused 153,390 injuries in 2013. This injury comes in at the fourth costliest for construction, with a total cost of $5.3 billion and an average of five days away from work per injury.
A “struck by” accident occurs from the impact of an object hitting a worker, whether it’s a tool falling from overhead or a door swinging into them. Consider a situation where a construction worker is hammering nails into a roof and briefly sets his tool down – the hammer slides off the roof and onto an unsuspecting worker below, resulting in a “struck by” injury.
Most struck by injuries can be avoided by wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment, like hardhats and safety glasses, and by staying alert and aware of surroundings.
By staying aware of the risks, and taking the right steps to eliminate hazards in the workplace, you can help reduce the potential for on-the-job injuries. Safety precautions can also help you to avoid costs and keep your workers safe.