Struck-by injuries in construction - what they are and how they happen
After falls and injuries caused by overexertion, “struck-by” injuries account for the third-largest proportion of disabling claims in Oregon’s construction industry. What exactly are they and how do they happen?
Many of us take the classification of injuries and illnesses for granted and assume that labels such as “struck by” are intuitively obvious, but that’s not the case. There are dozens of ways to describe such injuries and the task of sorting out the distinctions isn’t easy. Fortunately, the folks at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics have classified and codified the entire spectrum of workplace injuries in the 550-page Occupational Injury and Illness Classification Manual, (version 2.01). The manual is used to ensure consistency in reporting the characteristics of workers’ compensation claims at the state and national level.
According to the manual, “‘struck-by’ codes apply to injuries produced by forcible contact or impact between the injured person and the source of injury when the motion producing the contact is primarily that of the source of injury rather than the person.” This definition applies solely to objects and equipment, however, and excludes “vehicle accidents and injuries resulting from physical contact with other persons or animals.”
Now that you know what constitutes a true ‘struck-by’ injury, can you describe how one might happen? Here are five examples from Oregon workplaces:
- A worker was performing a form-stripping operation. While he was removing gates from a form, a main beam rolled out of the drop head panel and struck him in his back.
- A worker was standing nearby as an excavator was removing a seven-foot long concrete curb. The curb had been lifted about 1.5 feet on one end when it broke loose from the asphalt and tumbled end over end, striking the worker who was standing about six feet away.
- A worker was on an eight-foot stepladder using a nail gun to nail a strap when the nail ricocheted and struck him just above the left ear.
- A worker was knocked off the platform he was working on when a pipe clamp failed on a high-pressure slurry pipeline and struck him in the head.
- A worker was one of a three-person crew hoe-ramming a street to prepare for digging it up. He and another worker were holding up plywood shields near the point of operation to keep debris from flying onto the sidewalk. As they worked, the trackhoe’s eight-foot hammer dislodged, fell over, and struck the worker’s head.
Preventing struck-by injuries; safe practices for employers and workers
- Ensure all equipment guards are in place and working properly.
- Ensure that high-visibility clothing is provided and used in accordance with company policy.
- Ensure that newly hired workers are properly trained, able to do their jobs safely, and aware of potential hazards at the site.
- Ensure that workers are aware of the site’s traffic flow plan and know where the site’s entrances and exits are.
- Ensure that workers are properly supervised and using appropriate PPE for their tasks.
- Ensure that workers inspect equipment routinely and maintain or replace it when necessary.
- Ensure that workers who use nail guns are properly trained and use guns with sequential-trip triggers.
- Have pre-work safety meetings each day to discuss potential safety hazards and how to prevent them.
- Require mobile equipment operators to follow all safety instructions in the equipment operator’s manual.
- Require workers to maintain a safe clearance from mobile equipment.
- Keep the site free of unnecessary clutter and debris.
- Do not use tools with loose, cracked, or splintered handles.
- Use appropriate PPE for feet, eyes, ears, and hands.
- When doing overhead work, secure tools and materials. Use toeboards, screens, guardrails, or debris nets when possible.