Do you know when it's safe to hang out in a trench, versus when the trench requires some extra support? Know how to safely use a ladder, work on a scaffold or keep yourself protected around electrical systems? Prove your construction safety IQ with this quiz!
Around 6.5 million people in the United States head to work on one of more than a quarter million construction sites each day. according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Sadly, not all of these workers will make it home. In fact, OSHA names the construction industry as one of the most dangerous for workers.
In 2016, 21 percent of all private industry employee deaths in the U.S. involved construction -- the highest of any industry in the nation. Nearly 1,000 of the 4,693 workers who died on the job that year lost their lives in the building trade. These workers suffered fatal falls from roofs or other elevated surfaces, found themselves suffocated in collapsed trenches, experienced deadly electrical shocks and ended up victims of falling scaffolds, cranes and other equipment.
Yet with all the hazards construction workers face, this industry is vital to building the homes and businesses that are so integral to people's everyday lives. So what's a worker to do to stay safe? Check out these construction safety questions to see how much you know about construction site dangers!
Falls are by far the biggest cause of construction fatalities. Around 2 out of 5 construction workers who are killed on the job die from a fall. Proper fall protection, guard rails, harnesses and safety nets can help keep you safe and cut your risk.
One of the best way for construction employees to keep themselves safe is to always wear personal protective equipment, or PPE. This includes not only a hard hat and proper footwear, but also safety glasses, ear protection and face masks when necessary.
If you are digging deeper than 5 feet -- that's about the height of a small woman -- you need to take additional steps to prevent your trench from collapsing. Once you go 20 feet on more, OSHA requires you to consult a professional engineer to design a safe system of trench protection.
Toeboards are installed on any elevated surface on a construction site where people might be walking underneath. They prevent fallen objects from hitting people walking below, and are generally required to be at least 4 inches tall.
OSHA requires scaffolds be erected at least 10 feet away from all power lines. This helps to reduce the risk of electrocution. The 10-foot rule also applies when erecting a crane or similar equipment near a power line.
OSHA requires all scaffolds to be designed to carry not only their own weight, but also four times the intended load to be placed on the scaffold. They must also be rigid and structurally sound, and built on firm, stable footing.
A ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a safety device used on electrical outlets, cords and power tools. It's a special circuit breaker that can stop the flow of current in just a fraction of a second, cutting the risk of electrocution and fires.
OSHA requirements state that workers shouldn't have to travel more than 25 lateral feet to reach an exit point when working in a trench. This might require additional ladders, ramps, stairs and other exit routes depending on the size of the excavation.
Power tools can generate 110 decibels or more. Noise levels above 85 decibels are enough to damage your ears. Always take the time to protect your ears before switching on your tools.
Asbestos fibers are found in countless construction materials, from insulation to floor tiles, roofing and drywall. Inhaling these fibers can lead to lung term lung disease, including conditions like cancer. Working on a site that may contain asbestos requires serious personal protective gear, as well as extra steps to protect workers and their families.
OSHA requires all dirt and debris removed from a trench to be stored at least two feet away from the edges of the trench. This prevents dirt or rocks from falling back down and potentially injuring workers.
Anyone working 6 feet or more above the ground must be protection by some form of fall protection system. This might include guardrails, safety nets or even harnesses.
OSHA recommends using a ladder that is 3 feet or longer than the distance to the object you need. If you need to reach something 10 feet off the ground, you'll need a ladder measuring 13 feet or taller.
There are three main techniques used to protect workers in trenches. They include sloping the walls of the trench at a safe angle, shoring the walls with supports or shield the walls with trench boxes.
Any stairs with four or more risers, or that rise more than 30 inches are required to have at least one handrail. This includes both permanent and temporary stairs used in construction.
OSHA requires a Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS, to accompany every chemical used on a construction site. This makes it quick and easy for employees to see what they are handling and how to deal with spills or other issues.
Lead is found in all kinds of construction materials, including plumbing equipment, roofing and paint. Even just a few days of exposure to this heavy metal can cause seizures, a coma or death. Personal protective gear and taking protective steps when dealing with hazardous materials can reduce your risk.
Any hole a personal could potentially fall through -- OSHA defines it as 12 inches or larger -- requires fall protection. This might include guard rails, a secure covering or some other means of protection.
The top edge of guard rails used on construction sites must be built to a height of 42 inches above the walking area. There is a leeway of plus or minus 3 inches based on OSHA guidelines, and some applications may require much higher walls or rails.
A ground pin -- that third pin located between the two prongs on a standard extension cord -- is designed to provide a low resistance path for electricity to reach the ground. If you remove it in order to plug the cord into an outlet that doesn't have an opening for the pin, you're transforming your body into that low resistance path for electric currents to take.
While scaffolds that sit on the ground must be designed to carry four times their intended load, each rope used on a suspended scaffold must be designed to carry six times its intended load. This redundancy reduces the risks that the ropes will fail, sending workers falling to the ground.
Per OSHA, all employees working on a construction site must be provided with a hard hat free of charge. These hard hats can mean the difference between life and death if an object falls or an employee strikes his head.
Around 25 percent of all welding-related injuries are eye injuries. The bright lights used in welding can seriously damage the eyes, so proper goggles and face masks are critical pieces of equipment for welders.
Hard hats can become less effective when damaged, Any time a worker suffers a heavy blow or electric shock, or spots damage to his hard hat, the hat should be replaced.
Four types of fatal injuries are so common on construction sites that OSHA refers to them as the Fatal Four. They include falls, which cause nearly 40 percent of all construction deaths, followed by being struck by an object, electrocutions and being crushed or caught between objects.
Can you imagine the risk if an electrician is working on a piece of equipment and someone turns the breakers on? Lockout and tagout procedures are designed to protect workers from unexpected power sources on the jobsite.
OSHA requires employers to provide safety glasses and face masks to all applicable employees. This includes anyone exposed to potential harm, including flying particles, chemicals, vapors and other hazards.
All top rails used as guardrails to prevent falls on construction sites must be designed to withstand 200 pounds of force. Mid-rails must be capable of withstanding 150 pounds of force.
Fall protection was the most frequently cited issue by OSHA in 2017, followed by scaffolding and ladder issues. OSHA citations can come with hefty fines and other penalties for employers.
A heavy load can throw a crane off balance, leading to catastrophic failure. Outriggers improve stability and balance to prevent accidents and save lives.
While any worker on a construction site may be exposed to silica, masons are particularly vulnerable. This substance found in mortar, concrete and rocks can cause health issues like silicosis or even lung cancer.Personal protective gear, wet cutting techniques and proper ventilation can help keep employees safe.
OSHA describes aerial lifts as a safer tool for working at elevation than ladders -- though keep in mind that any time you work off of the ground, you should use caution to prevent falls.
Ergonomic tools are designed to reduce muculoskeletal injuries and repetitive motion disorders. These tools may cost a little more, but they are much less taxing on the body than standard tools.
Some materials, like rock or granite, allow builders to safely dig trenches with 90-degree walls. Other materials, like clay, sand, silt or gravel, require lower slopes for safety.
Forklifts might seem fairly benign, but they can pose a major safety risk on the job. OSHA recommends maxing out forklift speed at 5 mph for safety.