Florida’s warm weather is prime for construction year round, but that doesn’t mean the Sunshine State is any safer for workers. On the contrary – 747 construction workers died on the job in Florida over the course of just four years. Knowing the leading causes of construction worker deaths in FL can help industry professionals stay safe.
- Fall Hazards
The number one danger on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s “Fatal Four” list for the nation’s construction workers is falls. Falls are the leading cause of construction worker deaths in Florida, contributing to one third of all on-the-job deaths in the industry. Falls from roofs are the most common in FL, followed by ladders, building girders, floors, and scaffoldings. Employees working from more than six feet off the ground should use personal fall protection gear, as OSHA outlines in its occupational hazard regulation guidelines.
- Unsafe Drivers
Car accidents are another leading cause of construction worker death, taking 24 lives in Florida in 2012 (the latest year data is available). Construction worker vehicle accidents may be due to improper driver training, distracted driving, driving under the influence, or some fault on the part of the other driver involved.
- Dangerous Equipment
Construction workers have to work with heavy machinery and complex equipment, as well as a variety of dangerous tools and materials. Coming into contact with objects and equipment can easily lead to amputations, getting caught in machinery, concussions and other head injuries, and crush injuries. Workers can mitigate these serious hazards by wearing the proper head protection and using accepted safety techniques while operating equipment.
- Falling Objects
Objects may fall from rooftops, scaffolding, or high platforms, striking workers below. Even with a helmet on, heavy objects and building materials can seriously injure and kill construction workers. Falling hammers, bricks, or power tools can maim workers and lead to devastating head and brain injuries. Workers must secure their tools and materials carefully while working at heights.
Sadly, many construction workers in Florida are the victims of physical assaults and animal attacks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “violence by persons and animals” injured 209 construction workers in 2012. Violent assaults may come from coworkers – sometimes using equipment and tools on construction sites. Animal attacks may occur from wild dogs or loose dogs on someone’s property. One Florida construction worker was even the victim of a tiger attack at a private residence.
- Fires and Explosions
Construction workers often have to handle hazardous equipment such as electrical wiring, leaking pipes, and flammable chemicals. Improper handling or storage can lead to dangerous fires and explosions, as can smoking on the job.
Another one of construction’s fatal four, electrocution, is a serious threat to Florida’s construction workers. Working with power cords and electrical wires takes a certain level of education and training, as well as proper safety attire, to avoid harmful and potentially fatal contacts with live wires.
- Exposure to Harmful Substances
Exposure to harsh chemicals and materials such as asbestos, as well as breathing in construction dust, can lead to many different construction worker injuries and illnesses. Workers may suffer lead poisoning, chronic dust disease of the lung, or mesothelioma from their workplace environment. Welding jobs may also lead to exposure to toxic chemicals.
- Heatstroke and Dehydration
Construction workers in Florida have to deal with extreme heat in the months of July and August, leading to frequent cases of dehydration and heatstroke. Heatstroke can severely damage the brain, heart, and kidneys. Workers need to drink plenty of water, wear sun protection gear, and take frequent breaks when the sun is high.
- Repetitive Motion
Construction requires a lot of heavy lifting and hard physical labor, leading to many repetitive motion injuries over time. Workers may suffer joint and muscle damage due to overuse from performing the same tasks over and over again.