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Detailing the construction industry's "Fatal Four"

It may come as little surprise to most in New York that construction routinely ranks among the most dangerous professions. Construction workers are often asked to operate complex equipment and heavy machinery in unforgiving environments and conditions. Yet what may be shocking is just how dangerous construction can be compared to other industries. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations reports that 937 fatalities were reported by the American construction industry in 2015. That accounts for almost one-fifth (19.4 percent) of all the occupational fatalities reported in the country for that year. 

Yet for all of the complexity involved in commercial and residential construction work, The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that roughly 60 percent of the fatalities it produces are the result of just four causes. Dubbed "The Fatal Four," these include: 

  • Falls
  • Falling objects
  • Electrocutions
  • Crush injuries

That are falls are the most common killer of construction workers may not be surprising; workers often perform their work from heights from which a fall would almost certainly cause serious injuries. The same logic applies to falling objects; a tool or piece of material may have ample time to build up enough velocity to maim or even kill one below if it falls from a significant height. 

Many might be surprised to learn, however, how prevalent electrocutions and crush injuries are among construction workers. It is likely assumed that those performing electrical work know of its dangers and how to mitigate them. Yet unforeseen accidents or malfunctions cannot be anticipated. Crush injuries from structural collapses or workers becoming caught in equipment are likewise unanticipated, though employers may lower the risk of them occurring by restricting how often workers can be in trenches or excavations or how close they can get to heavy machinery. 

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