Your Guide to Caught in- or -Between Hazards

26 March 2021

One day, a worker was ripping a 6-inch piece of wood on an unguarded compound miter saw. 

Distracted, the worker let his left thumb slip in between the saw. The saw cut his thumb, and the worker’s thumb was amputated.

Can you imagine not having one of your thumbs?

Accidents like these are called caught in- or -between hazards.

In this blog post we’ll cover everything you need to know to avoid caught in- or -between hazards on a construction site. 

We discuss:

  • What is a caught-in or -between hazard? 
  • What are the common types of caught-in or -between hazards in construction? 
  • How can workers protect themselves from caught-in or -between hazards

What is a caught-in or -between hazard?

The critical factor in deciding between a Caught-event and a Struck-event is whether the impact of the object alone caused the injury. When the impact creates an injury, the incident is reported as a Struck-event. When the incident results from crushing injuries between things, the event should be recorded as Caught-event. 

Events that should be recorded as Caught include:  

  • Cave-ins or trenching
  • Being pulled into or caught in machinery and equipment, or strangulation when clothing gets caught in machinery
  • Compression or crushed between rolling, sliding or shifting objects such as semi-trailers and a dock wall, or between a truck frame and a hydraulic bed that is lowering 

“Caught-in or – between hazards are injuries resulting from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or between parts of an object.” OSHA

When you get caught or crushed in operating equipment, between other mashing objects, between a moving and stationary object, or between two or more moving objects, this is considered a caught-on or -between hazard. 

Real-life examples of caught in-between accidents are just as grim and deadly as other fatal hazards, such as falls and electrocution. 

Example Incident

A worker climbed onto an I-beam to clean the tail pulley of a conveyor belt attached to a separator. While the conveyor system was energized and in operation, the employee reached between the feed and return of the belt in front of the tail pulley with his hand. The moving belt caught him, and his hand and arm were pulled into a pinch point in the tail pulley. As a result, the worker’s arm was fractured. 

Common types of caught-in or -between hazards in construction:

Some of the working conditions that contribute to caught in- or –between hazards include: 

  • Machinery that has unguarded moving parts or that is not locked out during maintenance 
  • Unprotected excavations and trenches
  • Heavy equipment that tips over
  • Collapsing walls during demolition
  • Working between moving materials and immovable structures, vehicles, or equipment

Almost all sites use machinery that has moving or rotating parts or require maintenance or repair at some point during construction. If machinery is not adequately guarded or de-energized during maintenance or repair, injuries from caught-in or –between hazards could result, ranging from amputations and fractures to fatality. 

Unguarded machines or power tools can get clothing or parts of your body caught in the machines. If devices are not de-energized (locked-out) when they are under repair, they may cycle or otherwise turn on and grab a body part or clothing and cause injury or death. Workers can be trapped and crushed under heavy equipment that tips, especially if thrown from the equipment. 

The primary hazard related to buried in or by is cave-ins of unprotected trenches and excavations. Cave-ins can crush or suffocate you. Trenches may contain hazardous atmospheres; you can drown in water, sewage, or chemicals in the trenches; and if working around underground utilities, you could also face burns, electrocution, or explosions from steam, hot water, gas, or electricity. Those working underneath large scaffolds could be buried if the scaffold collapse. You may be buried and crushed by walls that collapse during demolition.  

Any kind of caught in-between hazard can result in multiple broken bones, asphyxiation, or death.

How to prevent and protect against caught-in or -between hazards:

  • Use machinery that is properly guarded  
  • Never remove a safety guard when a tool is in use 
  • Hazardous moving parts of power tools and equipment need to be safeguarded 
  • Belts, gears, shafts, pulleys, sprockets, spindles, drums, flywheels, chains, or other reciprocating, rotating, or moving parts of equipment, must be guarded if you are exposed to contact by such parts.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry that can be caught in moving parts. 
  • Make sure that your equipment is de-energized and cannot start accidentally. First, disconnect tools when not in use before servicing and changing accessories such as blades, bits, and cutters. 
  • Turn off vehicles before you do maintenance or repair work. If possible, lock out the power source to the equipment. The type of power source may be electric, pneumatic, liquid fuel, hydraulic, or powder-actuated. Lower or block the blades of bulldozers, scrapers, and similar equipment before making repairs or when the equipment is not in use. 
  • Protect yourself from being pinned between equipment, materials, or other objects  
  • Be aware at all times of the equipment around you and stay a safe distance from it.  
  • Never place yourself between moving materials and an immovable structure, vehicle, or stacked materials.  
  • Ensure that all loads carried by equipment are stable and secure. Stay out of the swing radius of cranes and other equipment. Wear a seatbelt, if required, to avoid being thrown from a vehicle and then potentially being crushed by the vehicle if it tips over 
  • Protect yourself on excavation sites and do not work in an unprotected trench that is 5 feet deep or more. 

The following type of protection may be of use to prevent getting caught in or between:

  • Sloping or benching Can also reduce your likelihood of being caught in or between. 
  • Sloping is cutting back the sides of the trench to a safe angle so it won’t collapse. 
  • Benching uses a series of steps that approximate the safe sloping angle. The angle depends on the soil type.  
  • Trench boxes or shields are also great for protecting those who are in them if a cave-in happens.  
  • You should always enter or exit a trench or excavation only by using a ladder, stairway, or properly designed ramp placed within the trench’s protected area.  
  • Do not work outside of the confines of the protection system
  • Make sure you have the proper training on the equipment and hazards of your job so that you can do your work safely.

Not one person wants to see an injury or loss of life on a construction site. By utilizing these precautionary actions learned in this video, you can help save lives and make construction sites safe for everyone. 

Sonya Sikra

Sonya is the Brand Strategy Manager at GoContractor. She specializes in communicating how implementing tech in construction can drive productivity and profit.

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