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The Fatal Four: Preventing the 4 Most Dangerous Construction Accidents

by Joe Geng on June 15, 2016

Comments (3)

What is “the Fatal Four?”

The “Fatal Four” is the name given to the four construction accidents that account for more workplace fatalities than any other accident. This includes Electrical Hazards, Fall Hazards, Struck-By Hazards and Caught-In/-Between Hazards.

The Fatal Four accounted for 64.2% of construction industry deaths in 2015. While these types of accidents affect every industry, those who work in the construction field are more likely to get hurt.

construction site workplace safety

1 in 5 workplace fatalities in 2015 occurred in the construction industry, according to OSHA. That’s not counting the number of non-fatal accidents stemming from the same four issues.

Preventing these accidents takes well-planned safety protocols, safety training, and the strict use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to help reduce these numbers and save lives; this blog looks at ways to do that.


The Fatal Four Statistics:

The four top workplace fatality causes are falls, electrocutions, struck-by-object events, and caught-in/between-objects. Unfortunately, these events claim hundreds of lives every year in the construction industry.

OSHA explains that falls are the most common risk of all. 40% of construction workplace deaths in 2014 were due to falls. Electrocutions are a second with 8.5% of fatalities. While Struck-by-object fatalities totaled 8.4%, and at 1.4% were caught in/between-object fatalities.
cell tower climber fall protection


How to Prevent the Fatal Four:

Employers and employees have an important safety job to do when it comes to safety.

In general, that means following safety standards — the standards mandated by law and by your work site — as they’re laid out.  For instance, OSHA requires employers to ensure workplace conditions are danger-free.

Here are some of the things you can do to increase the level of safety on your construction site:


1. Fall Protection:

  • Choose appropriate PPE and provide it to workers at no cost
  • Provide ample job hazard and safety training in clear terms
  • Guard floor holes where workers might accidentally fall
  • Ensure there are guardrails and toe boards around elevated platforms and other walkways
  • Install guardrails around all equipment that a worker might fall into or onto
  • Provide harnesses, lines, nets, railings and other fall protection that’s appropriate for the job and hazard
  • Keep floors clean and as dry as possible


2. Electrocution Protection:

  • Provide proper electrical safety training (especially with lockout/tagout procedures) in clear language
  • Select proper PPE (particularly insulated gloves) and provide it to workers at no cost
  • Power down power tools, machinery and other electrical equipment when not in use
  • Identify and label all electrical hazards in the workplace


3. Struck-By-Object:

  • Provide safety training in clear language to vehicle and machine operators
  • Maintain a workplace where workers are never situated between moving objects or a moving and fixed object
  • Select and provide proper PPE (such as high-visibility work gloves and clothing).


4. Caught-In/-Between Object:

  • Provide safety training in clear language
  • Maintain high awareness of moving equipment and moving parts
  • Use lockout/tagout procedures if machine guards are temporarily removed for any reason
  • Never wear loose clothing or long/loose hair that could get caught in machinery
  • Secure machinery to prevent it from tipping over
  • Never transport any unstable load
  • Reinforce trenches to prevent collapse


OSHA Maps Out Safety Standards

The standards that were put in place by OSHA or its Canada equivalency only help when they’re followed. Fall protection, for example, helps workers avoid the risk of falling from platforms, elevated work areas or into holes.

Over the past five years, The Fatal Four has consistently remained in OSHA’s top 10 citations.

So, what can you do to limit the number of Fatal Four construction accidents in your workplace?


Here are ten standards that are proven by OSHA to help save lives:

  1. Fall protection – 29 CFR 1926.501
  2. Hazard communication standard – 29 CFR 1910.1200
  3. Scaffolding – 29 CFR 1926.451
  4. Respiratory protection – 29 CFR 1910.134
  5. Hazardous energy control (lockout/tagout) – 29 CFR 1910.147
  6. Powered industrial trucks – 29 CFR 1910.178
  7. Ladders – 29 CFR 1926.1053
  8. Electrical – 29 CFR 1910.305
  9. Machinery and Machine Guarding – 29 CFR 1910.212
  10. Electrical systems design – 29 CFR 1910.303

OSHA monitors the volume and nature of workplace injuries and fatalities. By helping form new and more adequate safety standards for the future.

Eliminating the Fatal Four has the potential to save over 500 lives every year. You can do your part to make your construction workplace much safer, inclduing:

  • Proper training
  • Hazard identification
  • Hazard protection


Click below to learn more about choosing the right protection with our PPE Bible:

the ppe bible

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Share Your Comments

Reader Comments'

Thanks for this interesting and informative blog.

Reply Briender - June 17, 2016'

    Agreed, great info.

    Reply yahya shukur - September 29, 2017'

Awesome information, thank you so much for providing this!

Reply panav dodd - September 29, 2017

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