Heavy Equipment Risk Factors in Construction
By Brad Dowling, Vice President of Workers' Comp
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 48% of workers surveyed across a wide range of industries said they are exposed to heavy equipment operation while on a jobsite – and 30% said that operating heavy equipment has caused or contributed to a serious injury.
Although it’s impossible to avoid every potential risk on a construction jobsite, there are certainly ways to proactively address key issues. In addition to safety measures, it’s crucial to have the right workers’ compensation insurance in place – it can make a huge difference when it comes to protecting workers and the company’s bottom line.
The NSC notes that heavy equipment risk factors fall in two key areas: situational and systemic.
"48% of workers surveyed across a wide range of industries said they are exposed to heavy equipment operation while on a jobsite – and 30% said that operating heavy equipment has caused or contributed to a serious injury."
– National Safety Council
This type of risk is inherent to a specific situation or the operation of certain equipment. For example, crushing injuries are often associated with improper overhead crane use. The NSC lists the most common heavy equipment situational risk factors as:
- Being struck by an object with forcible impact (e.g., machinery, a vehicle, debris or equipment).
- Falling from heights due to collapsing structures or equipment or an opening in a surface.
- Machinery or materials catching on fire.
- Being crushed, squeezed, pinched or compressed between two objects such as machinery, a vehicle or a heavy load.
- Electrocution while operating heavy equipment.
These are specific factors contributing to an injury that are not a direct cause of injury. For example, operating equipment during a thunderstorm can create electrical risks. Some of the top contributing systemic risk factors as they relate to heavy equipment include:
- Faulty equipment that isn’t working properly and has become dangerous or unsafe to use.
- Machine guard failure/malfunction.
- Improper personal protective equipment/fall protection.
- Lack of health and safety training/supervision. According to the NSC report, 39% of workers surveyed indicated that a lack of training caused or contributed to a serious injury while on the job.
- Lack of workplace awareness. Workers who let down their guard around heavy equipment can foster dangerous habits and create safety concerns. The NSC notes that 40% of workers surveyed admitted that their lack of awareness on the jobsite caused or contributed to a serious injury.
- Fatigue. Operating heavy equipment while fatigued is obviously an accident waiting to happen. The NSC reports that 77% of workers said they were fatigued while on the jobsite and 40% indicated that fatigue caused or contributed to a serious workplace injury.
- Worker behavioral failure such as improper machine operation or a lack of abiding by the rules puts everyone on the jobsite at risk for an injury.
- Permit to work failure, where there is no formal management system or process to regulate high-risk situations to control safety measures. This is especially dangerous when heavy equipment is involved.
- Operating on hazardous terrain or when weather conditions are or can turn dangerous (e.g., lightning storms, thick fog, high winds or pelting rain) can create a number of safety risk factors when operating heavy equipment.
You can’t avoid every potential equipment risk and injury situation on a construction jobsite. You can, however, develop a program that actively addresses key safety issues and secure the right workers’ compensation [...]
You can’t avoid every potential equipment risk and injury situation on a construction jobsite. You can, however, develop a program that actively addresses key safety issues and secure the right workers’ compensation insurance to protect the company when accidents do happen.
“[Today, businesses] need a systematic approach to safety that includes having policies, training and risk assessment techniques in place to address major causes of fatalities and injuries. Leadership needs to set the tone from the top and engage all workers in safety, identify hazards and measure safety performance using leading indicators to continuously improve.”
- Source: The National Safety Council as reported by Work Comp Wire
Brad Dowling is the Vice President of Workers' Comp of Builders & Tradesmen's Insurance Services, Inc., an Amynta Group Company.
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