Struck-by hazards kill. Transportation incidents were the second leading cause of death in construction and contact with objects or equipment the fourth from 2018 to 2020, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training.
Those deaths happen despite the well-known dangers of struck-bys — which OSHA describes as an injury or death produced by forcible contact between a person and an object, such as a moving car or a falling piece of equipment. In response, CPWR has developed and is workshopping a toolkit to help contractors develop “nudges” or reminders for workers and superintendents to form a plan to deal with hazards.
As a part of the pilot program, CPWR suggests contractors identify risks, plan ahead of the job and then develop nudges, which could look like ongoing training or incentives.
The Silver Spring, Maryland-based nonprofit announced and detailed the pilot program in a webinar Thursday, inviting contractors to take part and provide feedback.
By the numbers
CPWR based the pilot program around a survey of employers; commercial contractors made up 80% of the respondents. The survey found that working around heavy equipment vehicles and falling or flying objects both at heights and the same level as the workers posed the greatest risk of a struck-by incident.
The organization encourages contractors to plan around those hazards first, said Grace Barlet, research analyst at CPWR. When there is heavy equipment or suspended materials, take extra time to plan ahead and ensure everyone is aware of the work and potential dangers, Barlet said.
By knowing which types of tasks will introduce more hazards — such as crane work — contractors can ensure that workers have the proper safety knowledge ahead of time — for example, to properly stay out of the swing radius of the crane’s load.
About one in four respondents said both lack of understanding about how to address hazards and scheduling pressure are the biggest barriers for employers to engage in safest practices. The biggest barrier for workers, at 30%, was the lack of pre-task planning.
OSHA advises workers to always wear proper safety gear, such as helmets and eyewear — especially when working underneath someone else. Additionally, workers should confirm that machine operators can see them when traversing the jobsite, and wear bright, visible gear while working on road construction projects.
Jessica Bunting, research director for CPWR, said it was vital for employers to plan as early as the bidding stage to mitigate or eliminate struck-by hazards, and then take extra time to plan every day where work could introduce those hazards.
Nearly 80% of respondents said worker training on how to identify and prevent struck-by hazards would help their employees prevent struck-by incidents.
A nudge in the right direction
But planning and education shouldn’t be the end of it, Bunting said. Both reinforcing the training actively — like leading a cultural change by example — and passively — like using jobsite posters to remind workers to wear PPE — helps solidify the pre-planning stage.
Next, reminders such as text messages, emails or stickers help constantly keep rules and practices in check, and incentives or rewards for engaging in daily planning can help with the extra push to ensure everyone’s head is on a swivel, Bunting said.
Identifying hazards and planning is only the first step, Bunting said. Reinforcing the practices with those consistent nudges, according to CPWR, makes a difference.
“I think we can all agree that changing the culture in construction is an uphill battle," Bunting said, but it is possible and workers themselves are effective advocates. Contractors can take a page from ongoing efforts to address the industry's mental health crisis and offer testimonials from impacted workers to reach those resistant to safety changes.