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When Work Strikes Back: Fresh Insight into Struck-by Accidents on the Job

Workplace safety is a paramount concern for both employees and employers. Among the various types of workplace hazards, struck-by accidents stand out due to their sudden and often severe nature.

These incidents occur when a worker is hit by a moving object, such as falling tools, vehicles, or even collapsing structures. To promote a safer work environment, it is crucial to understand the cause, impact, and preventive measures of struck-by accidents.

After airborne particles breach safety glasses, a firefighter wipes his eye.

The Reality of Struck-by Accidents

Struck-by accidents are one of the four leading causes of fatal injuries in the construction industry, alongside falls, electrocutions, and caught-in/between incidents. However, they are not limited to construction sites; they can occur in manufacturing plants, warehouses, agricultural settings, and many other workplaces.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorizes struck-by accidents into four main types:

  1. Struck-by Flying Object: This occurs when an object that is ejected or propelled strikes a worker. Common examples include tools falling from heights or objects being expelled from machines.

  2. Struck-by Falling Object: This type of accident happens when objects fall from above and hit workers below. This can include materials, tools, or equipment not properly secured.

  3. Struck-by Swinging Object: Objects that swing, such as crane loads or machinery parts, can strike workers if they are in the swing path.

  4. Struck-by Rolling Object: Vehicles and heavy equipment that move around the workplace can strike workers, particularly in scenarios where visibility is poor or safety protocols are not followed.

Warnings around high-risk areas can protect workers and others from struck-by hazards.

Causes of Struck-by Accidents

The causes of struck-by accidents are varied and can often be traced back to a combination of human error, mechanical failure, and environmental factors. Some of the primary causes include:

  • Lack of Proper Training: Workers who are not adequately trained may not be aware of the hazards associated with their tasks or the proper safety protocols to follow.

  • Inadequate Safety Measures: Failure to implement and enforce safety measures such as securing loads, using protective barriers, or maintaining equipment can lead to struck-by incidents.

  • Poor Communication: Miscommunication or lack of communication among workers, particularly in busy or noisy environments, can result in accidents.

  • Unsafe Working Conditions: Working in environments where visibility is low, surfaces are uneven, or there is clutter can increase the risk of struck-by accidents.

Equipment Malfunctions: Mechanical failures or improper maintenance of machinery and vehicles can lead to unexpected movements or ejections of parts and materials.

Injuries and property damage can occur when concrete hoses rupture during pumping,

Impact of Struck-by Accidents

The consequences of struck-by accidents can be devastating, ranging from minor injuries to fatalities. The impacts are felt not only by the injured workers but also by their families, coworkers, and employers.

  • Physical Injuries: Struck-by accidents can result in a wide range of injuries, including fractures, lacerations, concussions, and more severe outcomes such as traumatic brain injuries or fatalities.

  • Emotional and Psychological Effects: Survivors of struck-by accidents may experience long-term emotional and psychological effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.

  • Economic Costs: For employers, struck-by accidents can lead to significant financial burdens, including medical expenses, compensation claims, legal costs, and increased insurance premiums. Additionally, there may be productivity losses due to downtime and the need for training replacements.

  • Impact on Workplace Morale: The occurrence of a serious accident can have a profound impact on workplace morale, leading to fear, decreased productivity, and a heightened awareness of safety concerns among workers.

A Falling object from a tower crane landed in a busy street after a catastrophic failure.

Preventive Measures

Preventing struck-by accidents requires a comprehensive approach that includes proper training, adherence to safety protocols, and fostering a culture of safety.

Here are some key preventive measures:

Training and Education: Regular training sessions should be conducted to educate workers on the risks of struck-by accidents and the proper safety procedures to follow. This training should be tailored to the specific tasks and environments of the workplace.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Workers should be provided with and required to wear appropriate PPE, such as hard hats, safety glasses, and high-visibility clothing. This equipment can provide a critical layer of protection against flying or falling objects.

Securing Loads and Equipment: Properly securing tools, materials, and equipment can prevent them from falling or being ejected. This includes using safety nets, tool lanyards, and securing loads on vehicles and machinery.

Implementing Safety Barriers and Guards: Physical barriers and guards can help protect workers from moving machinery and vehicles. These can include railings, safety gates, and barriers around hazardous areas.

Maintaining Equipment: Regular maintenance and inspection of machinery and vehicles can prevent malfunctions that could lead to struck-by accidents. This includes checking for worn parts, proper functioning of safety features, and ensuring that equipment is used as intended.

Improving Communication: Establishing clear communication protocols, such as using hand signals, radios, or alarms, can help ensure that workers are aware of potential hazards and can avoid dangerous areas or activities.

Creating a Culture of Safety: Fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes safety can have a significant impact on reducing accidents. This includes encouraging workers to report hazards, conducting regular safety audits, and involving employees in safety planning and decision-making.

To prevent future failures, electricians perform system maintenance and upgrades.

Case Studies and Real-Life Examples

Understanding real-life examples of struck-by accidents can provide valuable insights into the importance of preventive measures.

Here are a few notable cases:

  • Construction Site Accident: A worker on a high-rise construction site was struck by a falling hammer that had not been secured properly. The worker suffered a severe head injury, emphasizing the need for tool lanyards and proper training on securing tools.

  • Warehouse Incident: In a busy warehouse, a worker was struck by a forklift that was reversing with limited visibility. The accident resulted in a broken leg and highlighted the importance of proper training for forklift operators and the use of high-visibility clothing for workers on the ground.

  • Manufacturing Plant Accident: A piece of machinery malfunctioned and ejected a metal part, striking a worker in the chest. The incident underscored the necessity of regular equipment maintenance and the use of protective guards.

On large electric motors, fan guards are installed as a safety measure.

Struck-by accidents represent a significant and often underestimated risk in various workplaces. The sudden nature of these incidents can lead to severe injuries or fatalities, making it imperative for employers and workers to take proactive steps to mitigate these risks.

Developing a culture of safety, adhering to safety protocols, and implementing comprehensive training programs can significantly reduce struck-by accidents.

The responsibility for prevention does not rest on a single individual or department; it requires a collective effort from everyone in the workplace.

From the management setting stringent safety standards to workers adhering to those standards, each role is crucial in creating a safe and productive working environment. We can work towards a future where struck-by accidents are a rare occurrence rather than a common occurrence by understanding the dangers and taking appropriate action.


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