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Five leading causes of construction worker deaths

The construction industry saw almost 1,000 employee deaths in 2016 according to OSHA. In New Jersey and across the U.S., construction workers are exposed to many hazards, so it is a good idea for them to know what those hazards are and how to mitigate them. Five are summarized below.

The leading cause of death among construction workers is falling, usually caused by unstable work surfaces or the unsafe use of ladders and scaffolding. Employers should provide the right personal protective equipment, such as hard hats and non-slip boots, and make sure the workplace complies with federal standards for fall prevention equipment, such as guardrails and safety nets.

The second most common danger is a struck-by incident, especially when workers are struck by cranes, forklifts and other vehicles. Such incidents could be avoided with clear vehicle routes. The third risk is electrical. Employees should be trained to locate and identify all utilities before starting work, and they should have portable tools that are either grounded or double insulated.

Fourth, workers may be killed in caught-in-between incidents, especially in trench collapses. These can be avoided if employers set up safety measures and trench wall support for trenches that are 5 feet or deeper. Lastly, many workers are killed by hazardous materials. These should come with material safety data sheets for employees to refer to before using them.

Safety measures won't always prevent accidents, unfortunately. Injured employees can file a workers' compensation claim, and if it is accepted, they could be covered for their medical expenses and for a percentage of their lost income. Victims will, of course, have to waive their right to sue their employer for the same incident. Since claims can be denied, victims may want to have a lawyer by their side to assist with an appeal if necessary.

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