Preventing accidents on the job

Accident prevention is a participatory activity that begins with careful project planning to meet the conditions of a particular venue – a plant industrial site, construction job site, manufacturing plant, or any other workplace – and which assesses potential risks and offsets them with any and all means of avoidance at the owners' disposal.

Starting from a "zero accident" premise, a combination of informational and behavioral practices (active and passive leading indicators), an accident prevention program takes participants from project planning through the following steps:

  • Identifying at-risk elements

  • Screening of employees

  • Safety orientation and training

  • Program reinforcement

  • Record keeping and follow-up investigations

  • Empowerment at all levels of the company

A buy-in of a comprehensive program, such as the Construction Industry Institute's (CII) Zero Accident Safety Techniques program, is specifically designed to address these criteria.

Fall protection

Fall prevention is governed by applicable regulations and standards, including

  • 29 CFR, PART 1910, Occupational Safety and Health Standards

  • 29 CFR, PART 1926.500, Subpart M, Fall Protection Requirements in the Construction Industry

  • American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Z359.1 (R 1999), Safety Requirements for Personal Fall Arrest Systems, Subsystems and Components.

Identifying fall hazards is the first step in fall protection; elevated walking/working surfaces include:
  • Unprotected sides and edges

  • Leading edges

  • Holes

  • Formwork or reinforcing steel

  • Ramps, runways and other walkways

  • Excavations that may be obscured by structures or plant growth

  • Formwork or reinforcing steel

  • Above dangerous equipment

  • Overhand bricklaying and related work

  • Roofing work on low-slope roofs and steep roofs

  • Precast concrete erection

  • Wall openings and hoist areas

  • Other elevated walking/working surfaces

There are many factors assessed to determine the appropriate fall protection system, such as frequency of work performed, horizontal or vertical movement of workers, number of workers exposed, and the need for anchorage points.

Systems fall into active and passive types. Passive systems include guardrails and toe-boards, fences and barricades, safety nets and covers. Active systems include full body harnesses, with lanyard, lifelines, snap-hooks, and other tie-off systems.

Grounding of power tools
Thousands of workers are injured every year due to improper grounding of portable powered tools. Serious injury or death can be the result of electric shock. OSHA estimates that most of these accidents can be prevented if proper safety precautions at job sites are initiated.

The implementation of Electrical Safety Standards establish uniform requirements to ensure that the hazards of using tools and electrical appliances at job sites are evaluated, safety procedures implemented, and that the proper hazard information is transmitted to all affected workers.

The use of electrical devices such as a ground fault circuit interrupter detects potentially hazardous ground faults, quickly disconnecting power from the circuit. A potentially dangerous ground fault is any amount of current above the level that may deliver a dangerous shock. Any current over eight mA is considered potentially dangerous depending on the path the current takes, the amount of time exposed to the shock, and the physical condition of the person receiving the shock.


A proven preventive measure that has become an industry standard of safety is lockout/tagout. Whenever electrical equipment is inspected, serviced, or repaired, power is removed and the equipment must be locked out and tagged out.

Lockout is the process of removing the source of electrical power and installing a lock which prevents the power from being turned ON. Tagout is the process of placing a danger tag on the source of electrical power which indicates that the equipment may not be operated until the danger tag is removed. Reference OSHA Standard 29CFRI910.147 for industry standards on lockout/tagout.

Confined Space

While uncommon, accidents involving confined space are often fatal and can involve multiple deaths. Careful planning is necessary when approaching a confined space situation, including atmospheric hazards, physical hazards of surfaces, equipment, engulfment through materials, and so on. Inspection and documentation by a supervisor is necessary to ensure entry to a confined space passes checks of the permit for confined spaces.

Crushing Injuries

These are among the most devastating of injuries, often resulting in permanent disfigurement. Often some form of equipment is involved, or some large load of materials. A truck, crane, power tool or large piece of material can be the cause of having a body part crushed. OSHA points to the following as causes in a particular crushing incident involving crane rigging:

  • Lack of training and hazard recognition

  • Loads carried higher than necessary

  • Lack of new hazard assessment when the first route was rejected

  • No designated person to select a safe traveling route
Digital Safety Signs Fall injuries can be prevented by using harnesses, lanyards and active prevention, or by passive safety equipment like guardrails and safety nets.