1.4% of deaths in the workplace are caught in-between. It is the last of the fatal four. Caught in-between hazards can kill by cave-ins and other hazards of excavation work; body parts pulled into unguarded machinery; standing within swing radius of cranes and other construction equipment; caught between equipment and fixed objects. Workers in excavation are more than twice as likely to be killed as workers in any other type of construction work. Excavation hazards are very common on construction sites and are unstable by nature.
Cave-ins can suffocate or crush workers. Flammable gases or vapors can cause fires and explosions. There can be oxygen deficiency which can suffocate a worker. Workers can drown in water, sewage or chemicals if they have not been controlled by diverting them elsewhere or locking them out. Workers can face burns, electrocution or explosions when working around various underground utilities. OSHA requires a competent person be on-site when doing excavations and that person must be able to recognize hazards that exist and could occur. That person must have the authority to take action to correct those conditions. If trenches are deeper than 5 feet but less than 20 feet, it must be sloped or benched which involves cutting back the sides of the trench to a safe angle so it will not collapse or add a series of steps that also approximate the safe slope angle; have a trench box; or shoring. With shoring and shielding, workers are only protected as long as the stay within the confines of the system. If the excavation is more than 20 feet deep, a professional engineer must design the system to protect the workers. Enter or exit a trench or excavation only by using a ladder, stairway or properly designed ramp that is placed within the protected area of the trench. Most importantly, do not work outside of the confines of the protection system.
All sites have machinery that has moving parts that need repair or maintenance at some point. Injuries that range from fractures and amputations to death may result if machinery is not properly guarded or de-energized while doing repairs or maintenance. Workers can get their clothing or parts of their body caught in the machines or power tools when they are not properly guarded. Workers can be trapped and crushed under heavy equipment that tips, especially if they are thrown from the equipment. You should only use machinery that is safely guarded. Never remove a safety guard while the tool or machine is being used. Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that can get caught in moving parts. You can be pinned between machinery and a solid object such as a wall or other piece of equipment. These hazards can cause multiple broken bones, asphyxiation, and/or death. At all times, you should be aware of where equipment is around you and stay a safe distance from it. Never put yourself between equipment and an unmovable structure. Make sure all loads carried by equipment are stable and secure. Wear a seatbelt, if available, to be thrown from a vehicle and then potentially being crushed by the vehicle if it tips over.
Employers are required to protect employees from caught-in or –between hazards by:
- Providing guards on power tools and other equipment with moving parts
- Support, secure or otherwise make safe equipment having parts that workers could be caught between by providing lockout/tagout program
- Take measures to prevent workers from being crushed by heavy equipment that tips over by not exceeding the load capacity or putting equipment on soft or ground that is not level
- Take measures to prevent workers from being pinned between equipment and a solid object such as during demolition, only allow workers absolutely necessary to do the work in the work area
- Provide protection for workers during trenching and excavation work
- Provide means to avoid the collapse of structures scaffolds
- Provide means to avoid workers’ being crushed by collapsing walls during demolition or other construction activities
- Designate a competent person to oversee trenching supports and other hazards
- Provide training for workers
Our company can help you with training so that you can help spot these hazards.
Below is a video of demolition that went wrong. Thankfully, no one was hurt but see if you can spot what they did wrong and what they did right.