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The Fatal Four: What They Are and How to Avoid Them


Every job comes with risks, but especially so when you’re on a large construction site dealing with machinery, tools and devices and electrical equipment. Because of the nature of your work, you are exposed to many dangerous situations on the job, including the four leading causes of fatalities in the industry. While these risks are constantly present, there are ways to avoid them and reduce the risk of injury and death.

What are the Fatal Four?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration identifies four leading causes of deaths in construction: falls, struck by an object, electrocutions and caught in or caught between.

  1. Falls. These account for 36.5% of construction deaths. They include falls off ladders, roofs and scaffolding because of unprotected areas, improperly constructed working spaces or failure to use safety equipment and techniques.
  2. Struck by an object. 10% of construction fatalities happen because of swinging, falling or misplaced objects. Sometimes an equipment malfunction causes the object to fall. Other times it’s rigging failures, loose materials or because a vehicle struck something.
  3. Electrocution. At 8.6%, electrocution causes fewer deaths than being struck by an object but can happen in various ways. An exposed wire, poorly maintained extension cords and wet conditions around electrical equipment are just some of the electrical hazards workers face in the field.
  4. Caught in or caught between. About 2.5% of all construction fatalities happen in this manner. Getting caught in between machines, rotating equipment or collapsing structures can all lead to serious injury or death.

Though exposure to or experience with these four risks doesn’t always result in a fatality, they can all cause different degrees of injury. Preventing them requires awareness, discipline and better tools.


How to Avoid the Fatal Four

The first step toward better safety is education. First, you need to educate your team on the top risks. Then focus on how to reduce those risks. But knowledge must be combined with action for the best results.

Here are a few ways everyone on your team can work together to keep the job site safe.

Prioritize Safety Procedures

Safety begins before everyone gets to work. One of the simplest things plumbing contractor owners can do to create a safe construction site is to make sure their team has access to frequent safety training and a written version of procedures and policies.

Daily or weekly team meetings about jobsite safety can also encourage safer actions by having positive discussions about unsafe situations. The result will be safer work practices, reduced injuries and elimination of at-risk behaviors.

Safety Tips on the Construction Site

Next comes putting knowledge to work. A few ways to minimize accidents include:

  • Wear the appropriate safety gear. This could be everything from hard hats to goggles to sunscreen. This even means wearing clothes that make you visible to others around you who may be using machinery or vehicles. To prevent falls specifically, OSHA recommends wearing personal fall arrest equipment.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Before you start working, scan the site for potential safety hazards and make sure you have procedures in place to help prevent accidents. Locating utilities and overhead power lines are key to minimizing electrocution hazards. Also, keep tools and materials out of walkways, storing tools in their containers and throwing away trash on the floor that could cause falls.
  • Stay focused. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but there are ways to help you stay alert. Take breaks to rest, eat and hydrate to prevent exhaustion. This is especially important in the summer, when heat can quickly cause fatigue. And try not to eat anything too heavy that can make you groggy after lunch.

Use the Right Products

Not only are safety procedures crucial to reducing the risk of injuries and fatalities on site. Investing in safe and smart products also pays off. Several HoldRite solutions have helped workers avoid the Fatal Four.

Products to Reduce Fall Hazards

TestRite, an alternative to inflatable test ball systems, helps keep jobsite floors dry while testing the Drain, Waste and Vent system. This helps minimize slip and fall hazards caused by water or ice on the floor. TestRite also reduces the risk of falling off a roof. It allows you to fill pipes from test tees within the building so you don’t need to use a ladder to climb onto roofs to put hoses in vent pipes.

HydroFlame firestop sleeves also reduce falls. They have OSHA-compliant hole covers, which eliminates gaps in the floor that can cause trip-and-fall hazards.

Products to Avoid Being Struck by an Object

Though makeshift methods may appear to be more affordable, their reliability and thus safety is unpredictable. Suspended water heater platforms replace makeshift versions of overhead equipment support platforms with a reliable, engineered solution designed to support water heaters and other equipment even in the event of an earthquake.

Makeshift methods of pipe supports and no-hub fitting restraints pose a similar risk. Their inconsistent reliability means they could fail and cause a pipe system to fall onto someone. Using engineered solutions designed to safely support pipes and fittings overhead and in-slab reduces the risk of injury.

In DWV testing, the popular inflatable test ball systems occasionally fail and explode, which can cause shrapnel to hit and injure someone on site. TestRite test wedges aren’t inflated with air pressure, eliminating a situation in which someone could be struck by an object.

When core-drilling takes place on a jobsite, there is the hazard of workers being struck by falling concrete cores from overhead. By using engineered concrete sleeving systems, such as HoldRite HydoFlame, the risk of heavy concrete cores falling onto workers is eliminated.

Tools to Help Avoid Electrocution on the Jobsite

Everyone knows water and electricity is a recipe for disaster. Yet using inflatable test balls often results in water spills on site where power cords and electrical tools are often present. TestRite keeps the floor dry in the test area, minimizing electrocution hazards.

Core drilling also gets the floor wet and exposes you to electrical hazards from wet power cords on the floor. HydroFlame firestop sleeves are installed before the concrete pour, which eliminates the need for core drilling altogether.

Preventing Caught-in or Caught-between Accidents

Not only can DMV test balls burst and cause someone to be struck by an object. It can also slip down the pipeline while being deflated, and reaching for it can pinch, cut or scrape your hand. Because it doesn’t require an inflatable bladder at all, TestRite never puts you in a situation where you have to reach into a test tee.

Read More: 3 Ways TestRite Improves DWV Testing 

Start Working Safer

Accidents can happen in a moment, but preventing them takes time, energy and resources. From training to practicing on-site awareness, avoiding the Fatal Four takes knowledge and action. Let us help keep your job site safer and more efficient with engineered solutions built with plumbers in mind.