Training to Prevent the Fatal Four

How an effective onboarding process helps prevent the four most common construction-related employee injuries and fatalities

Fatal Four

Every year, thousands of workers die while performing tasks related to their job. Of these, approximately one out every five is in the construction industry. While there is an element of danger intrinsic to this work, effective and consistent employee training can mitigate this and lead to a safer workplace for everyone. One of the areas that deserves special attention in the onboarding process is the Fatal Four.

According to these statistics on OSHA’s website, there are four types of hazards that represent more than half of all construction-related fatalities each year, and together they are known as the Fatal Four. These are:

  • Falls
  • Electrocution
  • Struck by object
  • Caught in/between

Over 500 casualties occur each year due to these Fatal Four, but is this simply because there are insufficient regulations geared toward preventing them?

The very same page on OSHA’s website provides a second list that proves the answer to that question is a resounding, “No.” Of the top ten standards cited most often for violations in 2015, all but two pertain to the Fatal Four. The problem, then, is not that there is a lack of relevant safety guidelines surrounding these hazards, but that employees are not following the standards that are in place. What, then, can be done to lower the rate of injury and fatality associated with the Fatal Four?

The answer lies in the way in which the standards are presented to the employees and how frequently they are reinforced. All too often, employees leave a training session without contemplating how they can apply the material to their own work. They may think that staying safe just means using common sense or that injuries only happen to other people. Simply sharing the statistics with them or reading through the safety standards is unlikely to ingrain the importance of the material in their minds or make for a safer workplace.

Instead, the onboarding process needs to:

  • Explain the material in an engaging and simple way.
  • Present itself in a variety of manners that will take into account the many different learning styles.
  • Be ongoing and evaluative, tracking employees progress and ensuring they are following the proper protocols.

Safety managers can facilitate this by keeping safety top of mind and checking for adherence to all relative safety regulations. Training should also be individualized to better engage employees in the onboarding process, as all the material they will receive is relevant to them. For example, employees who will be working on scaffolding can be provided with more detailed information on working from heights without being forced to learn about crane operation at the same time.

This streamlines the onboarding process and decreases the likelihood of an accident. Moreover, it allows you to prioritize that information which is most central to your employees’ work and poses the most serious risk, such as the Fatal Four.

For more information on successful employee onboarding, see our other blog posts.

Images courtesy of OSHA.