Tips to help Minnesota workers avoid common construction accidents

Construction workers in Minnesota should understand how to reduce their risk of electrocution, falls, struck-by injuries and excavation accidents.

Construction workers in Hennepin County, face a significant risk of suffering serious injuries at some point in the course of their jobs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, construction is one of the most dangerous industries in the state. In 2014, only two other industries recorded a greater number of fatal workplace accidents.

Sadly, many construction accidents and injuries involve preventable factors. This makes it critical for construction workers and their employers to be familiar with these common hazards and the best practices that can reduce the risk of accidents.

Reducing falls

Nationally, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, according to OSHA. In 2014 alone, 349 construction workers lost their lives due to injuries that they suffered during falls. These deaths represented nearly 40 percent of all construction industry fatalities reported that year.

Several precautions can reduce the risk of falls and associated injuries. Employers should install safety nets or guardrails to prevent falls around unsecured edges and openings in walls or floors. Alternately, employees can use fall arrest systems when working near these hazards. Employers and workers should follow manufacturer specifications when erecting scaffolds and utilize fall prevention systems when working on them. Finally, workers should always inspect portable ladders and ensure that they are positioned safely.

Preventing electrocution injuries

Electrocution injuries can occur when employees come into contact with live power lines, use improperly grounded electrical systems or work with electrical equipment that is not being used properly. Workers should take the following steps to protect themselves from these injuries:

  • Be aware of the location of underground power lines and maintain a safe distance from overhead lines.
  • Before working on or near any electrical systems, inspect them for signs of defects or disrupted paths to the ground.
  • Work only with electrical equipment that is being used in accordance with OSHA standards.

Employees should use similar caution when working with electrical and extension cords. Employees should note the condition of these devices and avoid using ones that display wear or are being used for unapproved purposes.

Avoiding struck-by incidents

Collisions with falling or moving objects can cause construction workers to suffer serious or catastrophic work-related injuries. To prevent such injuries, construction workers should wear hard hats, store objects carefully to ensure that they do not fall and use protective gear such as safety goggles to guard against flying debris. Workers should also use seat belts and safe practices whenever they are driving or working near vehicles.

Mitigating trenching accidents

Workers who are performing trenching and excavation work may be vulnerable to trench collapses, drowning, asphyxiation and exposure to toxic substances, among other hazards. Many of these incidents may occur when trenches lack adequate protection systems or safe access points. Employers should always monitor oxygen and hazardous fume levels and use appropriate protective systems to stabilize trenches. Employers should also inspect trenches daily for signs of collapse.

Exploring options after accidents

Unfortunately, some employers may fail to implement these measures, and best practices may not prevent every accident. In these cases, it is often critical for injured employees to pursue any workers' compensation benefits that may be available, given the serious nature of construction injuries. Workers may benefit from consulting with an attorney for further information regarding their rights and the claim process.