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Common causes of construction site accidents

Severe and fatal construction site accidents are frequently in the news in New York. It takes a concerted effort on the part of everyone involved on a construction site to prevent these accidents. Taking precautions and strictly adhering to safety guidelines provided by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration can mitigate or eliminate many risks.

It is likely impossible to eliminate every factor that contributes to workplace accidents in the construction industry. However, learning what causes the most common accidents may help. 

Toxic exposure 

Some job sites require workers to use chemicals and building materials that are not safe for human exposure. For example, many solvents used to clean tools can cause health problems in the short- and long-term. A worker may experience dizziness and/or eye, skin and lung irritation while using a solvent. There is also a danger of long-term illnesses, such as cancer, with certain types of chemical exposures.


Heights, tripping hazards, slippery surfaces and uneven walkways all present serious fall hazards. Employers should always provide fall prevention equipment, including the following:

  • Ladders
  • Properly constructed scaffolding
  • Harnesses
  • Guardrails
  • Hard hats

Workers should also receive instruction on how to use personal protective equipment. Even a fall on a flat surface can cause serious injuries, but a fall from heights greater than 10 feet may easily result in a fatality.

Trench collapse

One cubic yard of dirt may weigh as much as a car, so even a seemingly minor trench collapse can fatally crush a worker. OSHA has strict requirements for the construction of trenches. If a trench is deeper than 5 feet, it must have specific protective systems in place. If the project involves a trench deeper than 20 feet, only a registered professional engineer may design it. People working in trenches are also in danger when heavy equipment is set up or used too close to the edge.

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