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Last week, a construction worker at Texas A&M University was injured while on the job. The worker was rushed to a local hospital after the concrete slab he was working on fell. As a Longhorn, my initial thought was to chalk it up as an Aggie jinx. However, construction injuries have been increasingly in the public spotlight lately, especially with this year’s crane incidents.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”), of the 5.2 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported in 2001, 93.6% of those were strictly nonfatal injuries. That means workers had to miss work days due to injuries rather than illnesses. (The opposite seems to be true for office-related occupations.) NIOSH has classified the following as nonfatal injuries:

· Amputations

· Back injuries, including spine and spinal cord

· Bruises and contusions

· Heat burns and scalds

· Cuts and lacerations

· Fractures

· Sprains, strains, and tears

The Center for Construction Research & Training (“CPWR”) has evaluated the leading causes of nonfatal injury at construction sites. Most nonfatal injuries are the result of a worker coming into contact with objects. Usually the contact is when an object strikes a worker, resulting in days away from work. Falls from elevations are the second leading cause of nonfatal injuries comprising 23 percent. While “overexertion” is the third leading cause, “exposure” only accounts for 3.5% of nonfatal injuries that cause work-loss. Exposure injuries include exposure to electric current, temperature extremes, or air pressure changes. Although an illness can turn fatal, such as asbestosis or cancer, these types of illnesses take years to mature and do not result in reported absences of work. Thus, are not included in the exposure category.

The CPWR has also looked at fatal injuries. As previously mentioned, falls from elevations are the leading cause of deaths as they account for 1/3 of all work-related deaths in construction. Although transportation incidents account for less than 4% of nonfatal injuries, they are the second leading cause of death. This category involves injuries relating to vehicles, such as highway incidents, pedestrian accidents, or the relocation movement of equipment. Lastly, the third major cause of construction deaths is contact with objects. The CPWR defines contact as including being struck by an object, struck against an object, or caught or compressed between equipment.

No matter if the injury is fatal or nonfatal, the goal should always be prevention. For more information on construction site safety and how you can help protect yourself against injury, please visit OSHA, CPWR, or NIOSH.

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