ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 6 - Issue: 23 - 06/09/2017

OSHA Focus Four Hazards: Best Practices to Prevent Accidents and Fatalities

During a recent webinar program presented in conjunction with ConstructionPro Network, Neil Opfer, a professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, told attendees that as construction projects get more complicated, increases in safety protection become even more important.

When construction safety is discussed, a key term is Focus Four.  OSHA’s Focus Four deals with:
#1  Fall Hazards
#2  Electrical Hazards
#3  Caught-In Between Hazards
#4  Struck-by Hazards
A report done by the U.S. Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics titled “2015 Fiscal-year Construction Industry Fatality Data:  – indicates that fatalities were caused by the following:
  • Falls 34%
  • Stuck By 24%
  • Electrical 11%
  • Caught in Between 10%
  • Other 21%
In fiscal year 2015, OSHA Citations in the Focus Four Area constituted 94% of the fines amongst the TOP 20 OSHA Violations.  Year-in, year-out, OSHA Citations are at 85% for Focus Four Violations and 90% of the fine amounts.  Given these numbers, an OSHA inspection will likely concentrate on Focus Four areas.
Major Causes of Fatalities:
Fall Fatalities
1. Unprotected leading edges, holes, gaps
2. Failure to utilize or correctly utilize Personal Fall Arrest Systems
3. Incorrect utilization of access equipment, such as ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts
4. Same surface issues – slips and trips
Electrical Fatalities
1. Poor condition of electrical cords and tools
2. Contact with live circuits in electrical panels
3. Contact with overhead or underground power lines
Caught In Between Fatalities
1. Trench wall collapse
2. Rotating equipment
3. Unguarded parts
4. Pinch points
Struck-by Fatalities
1. Falling objects with no overhead protection
2. Equipment contacts (vehicle backs over workers)
3. Flying objects
Following are some of Opfer’s safety tips:
  • Ladder safety – don’t use the top step; select a ladder with the proper duty rating for your weight and the materials you are handling; when using an extension ladder for access to another level, the ladder must extend at least 3 feet above the landing to provide a hand hold for getting on and off the ladder; extension ladders should be used at a 4 to 1 pitch
  • Perform work at ground level if possible.  For example, build prefab roofs on the ground and lift the roof into place with a crane
  • If you can fall more than 6 feet from a ladder or 10 feet on scaffold platforms, you must be protected 
  • Insulate live wires and always check before use; remove cords by pulling on the plugs, not the cords
  • When using tools, don’t store or use in wet/damp conditions; keep working areas well lit; don’t carry a tool by the cord, disconnect when not in use
  • Stay out of the swing radius of the crane; don’t stand under suspended loads; train crane operators regularly; always inspect crane to insure it is in proper order
  • Power tools must be fitted with guards and safety switches; don’t leave a loaded tool unattended; never point the tool at anyone; store unloaded tools in a locked box
There are no “silver bullets” out there.  You always want to choose a safe method that best fits the job demands and requirements.  In all cases, you must have a competent person to evaluate and correct safety issues.
Training is essential to safe construction projects.  Opfer highly recommends that you train your team and the good news is that there is a lot of great information easily available at your fingertips:
  • Go to and click on the training tab
  • Major manufacturers of safety equipment have training videos on their websites
  • Most states have a safety consultation section on their OSHA enforcement area of their websites.  In some cases if you have a safety issue on a job, you can call them and they will give you advice at no cost.
Click here to learn more about fall prevention and construction safety in general. Learn how to create a safety culture that would increase productivity with reduced risk and increased profits with lower Workman's Compensation rates.




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