Caught-in and caught-between dangers are one of the four classes of major construction site hazards (along with fall, electrical, and struck-by hazards). On average, caught-in and -between accidents account for approximately 10 percent of construction worker fatalities. It’s important that everyone who works at construction sites be aware of these risks, how to spot them, and how to react to them.
What Are Caught-In and -Between Hazards?
These are accidents in which workers or other on-site personnel are injured or killed between objects. For example, this includes mishaps involving moving machine parts, cave-ins, and getting crushed. To differentiate, struck-by events typically involve one impact from a single item.
Three conditions commonly contribute to caught-in and -between accidents:
- Machinery with rotating or other moving parts that are unguarded and/or not properly powered down at the time of maintenance or repair; this can result in body parts or clothing getting caught in the machine
- Unprotected trenches and excavations resulting in burial or drowning, as well as underground cave-ins and other mishaps; getting caught beneath collapsing scaffolding is a similar hazard in this category
- Getting pinned or crushed between a wall or the ground and a piece of material or equipment, shoring and construction materials, large items being stacked, etc.
Tips for Staying Safe from Caught-In and -Between Hazards
- Refrain from wearing loose or dangling clothing or accessories that can get caught in or on equipment or components at the job site
- Ensure that all rotating and other moving parts on machines and power tools (gears, shafts, belts, pulleys, sprockets, drums, spindles, chains, fly wheels, etc.) are properly guarded
- Power down all equipment/turn off vehicles when they’re not in use, when changing accessories, and prior to service or cleaning in a way that prevents it from being started accidentally
- Lower and/or lock arms, blades, attachments, etc. on heavy machinery when it’s not in use, when changing accessories, and prior to maintenance
- Be constantly aware of the equipment and materials around you and always keep a safe distance; this includes the swing radius of equipment
- Do not allow yourself to become positioned between crushing or pinning hazards, especially one moving and one fixed hazard
- Follow all maximum load guidelines for lifting, moving, and storing
- Wear a seat belt in any equipment that has one to prevent potentially being thrown out of the vehicle and crushed
- Never work in an unprotected trench that’s 5 feet or deeper; stay within the confines of whatever protection system is in place
- Ensure proper use of shoring, sloping, benching, trench boxes, or trench shields to protect against trenching and cave-in accidents
- A professional engineer must design the safeguards for any excavation more than 20 feet deep
- Workers must be protected from equipment, material, and spoils that could fall or roll into a trench or excavation
- Nobody should ever be working beneath a crane or earth-moving machinery operating directly over a trench or excavation
- Only go into and out of trenches or excavation sites with a ladder, stairs, or appropriately designed ramp
- Scaffolding should be erected, regularly inspected, and disassembled by a competent, qualified party
- Have a competent, qualified party inspect all construction site ground conditions for potential risks of equipment tipping or slipping
- Travel paths must be carefully mapped and followed for loading, unloading, stacking, and storing materials
- Essential personnel only should be at a demolition site; follow all proper demolition procedures and safety protocols
- All crew members must be trained in the safe and proper use of all equipment they work with
- All crew members must be trained to recognize and respond to caught-in and caught-between hazards