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Five all-too-common construction hazards

Falls, struck-by incidents, electrical accidents, caught-in-between incidents and exposure to hazardous materials: these are the five leading causes of death among construction workers in Illinois and across the U.S. 20 percent of all private sector employee deaths are composed of construction site deaths, and this is in spite of the fact that construction workers make up only 6 percent of the population.

To prevent falls, employers must supply personal protective equipment like hard hats and non-skid boots. Work surfaces should be stable and free of holes. Ladders and scaffolding should comply with safety standards. Fall prevention equipment like guardrails and safety nets may also be necessary. To prevent struck-by incidents, employers should have forklifts and other vehicles follow clear routes.

Employees should be trained to locate and identify utilities before starting work. They should know what the minimum safe distance requirements are. Tools should be portable and either grounded or double insulated. The majority of caught-in-between deaths arise when trenches collapse, but they can be avoided if trenches five feet or deeper have adequate safety measures and trench wall support.

Since workers are liable to breathe in airborne toxins, employers must provide the right respiratory protection. Any hazardous materials at the construction site should be part of a material safety data sheet, which employees can consult before putting the materials to use.

In the event of a workplace accident, the victim may be able to receive compensation. The workers' compensation program could cover medical expenses, a percentage of lost wages and even short- or long-term disability leave, if applicable. The victim may benefit from retaining a lawyer to evaluate the case, have third parties show that the reported injuries are accident-related and mount an appeal if the claim is denied. A lawyer might also help families and other dependents file for death benefits.

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