Ask Dr John Esq – Common Construction Site Injuries

site safety signs for construction site - byline john naranja, md, jd
Constructions sites are considered a high hazardous area where a number of injury risks exist. The office of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publishes its standards for safety in the construction industry and is a good source for discussing the most common construction site injuries.

safety construction worker hats

The nature of a construction site involves possible dangers related to impacts from falling objects or flying debris. These objects often arise from elevated locations. Accordingly, section 1926.100 of the Construction Site OSHA regulations deals with proper head protection. This also relates to traumatic brain injuries or concussions as a common construction site workplace injury. Symptoms of a concussion depend on the area of the brain where the impact occurred. As a result, symptoms can vary from headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, light sensitivity to feeling “foggy,” and having mood and/or personality changes.

concussion word cloud

Falling and flying objects also commonly impact the feet. Safety-toe footwear is regulated by OSHA standard 1926.96.

danger foot crush force from above  symbol sign

Crush injuries to the foot may cause fractures, soft tissue injuries, and even limb loss.

ankle injury with dislocation and sprains

Limb loss can occur where the crush injury so severely injures the blood vessels that the foot can either no longer receive oxygen and other nutrients to survive, or the crush causes toxic substances to accumulate and cause further damage.

The presence of heavy machinery and the risk for individual falls from a height at construction sites creates an environment where catastrophic spinal cord injury can also occur.

paramedic and team first aid for builder accident

The type and extent of injury depend on the level, location, and side at which the spinal cord is traumatized. Both complete (e.g. quadriplegia, paraplegia) and incomplete (e.g. quadriparesis, paraparesis) spinal cord injuries have been described.

Burns and scarring are another one of the most common construction site injuries. Exposed electrical wiring, hazardous chemicals, and flammable materials at the construction site all contribute to this risk.

man with large scar after burn on body

OSHA standard 1926.97 describes electrical protective equipment. This includes insulated rubber gloves and sleeves. Fire protection and prevention include access to fire extinguishers and/or access to a fire hose and connections. Burns are graded according to degree. First-degree burns involve the superficial layer of skin, or epidermis. Sunburns are an example of first-degree burns. A second-degree burn goes deeper into the skin entering the dermis. The formation of a blister is an example of this type of burn. A third-degree burn is the most severe type of burn and extends to the hypodermis and beyond.

skin burn classification - first, second and third degree skin burns

A construction site typically generates loud noises with the use of heavy equipment and power-operated devices and tools.

construction worker cuts walkway with circular saw  creating noise hazard

OSHA 1926.101 provides the standard for ear protective devices. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur in a number of ways, but the most common is damage to the hair cells of the cochlea or inner ear. Sound vibrations create waves in the fluid-filled cochlea. When the waves move, they cause hair cells in the cochlea to bend, which gets transmitted as sound to the brain. Prolonged loud sounds can destroy hair cells, leading to loss of hearing.

tinnitus healthy and damaged hair cells inside cochlea

Flying debris, blinding light, and work with chemicals that may be caustic, among other exposures, results in potential injuries to the eyes and face. OSHA 1926.102 regulates protective wear in these cases. Welding provides a useful example of how damage to the eyes can occur.
workers wearing industrial uniforms and welded iron mask at steel welding plant

Welding tasks use a very bright light that also carries ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation exposure to the cornea may cause a “sunburn” to the cornea, also called photokeratitis. UV radiation that affects the retina, where visual stimuli gets transmitted to the brain, can lead to blindness. This is also called blue light hazard.

illustration of parts of human eye

Finally, welding may also result in metallic foreign bodies being propelled into a worker’s eyes as another source of injury.

Construction sites remain an environment where safety and awareness of potential dangers are paramount. Injuries at these locations may be catastrophic and warrant attention.

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