Falls account for the overwhelming number of injuries and fatalities on construction job sites. They are the number one cause of work-related deaths for construction workers. Employers and employees, however, can reduce the risk of falls on job sites.
Falls account for an estimated two-thirds of all construction injuries. The Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America says almost half of these falls occur from 20 feet or less and some from even 6 feet or less—suggesting you don’t have to be too far off the ground to be seriously injured when a fall occurs.
As EHS Today reports, even a fall from a short height can do significant damage: A 200-pound man who falls 6 feet will hit with nearly 10,000 pounds of force.
Fall prevention is a major concern for employers and regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alike. Ensuring that workers know how to keep themselves safe and avoid injury requires an investment of time and money.
OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign offers three simple solutions: Plan, Provide, and Train. Employers and employees must PLAN ahead to ensure the job is done safely, PROVIDE the right equipment for safe construction work, and TRAIN all workers on the proper use of equipment and basic fall prevention strategies.
For employers, fall prevention means:
- Developing a fall protection plan.
- Identifying hazards before work begins and throughout the job’s progression.
- Ensuring that equipment is in good working order and appropriate for the task.
- Providing ongoing training to workers.
- Conducting regular inspections on equipment and hazards on the job site.
For employees, preventing a fall means:
- Attending and participating in fall prevention training.
- Understanding and applying the fall prevention plan.
- Using proper equipment for the job at hand.
- Inspecting the work area before and during the job.
- Always checking that equipment like ladders and scaffolds are safe and secure before using.
- Tie-off when using boom lifts and other mobile equipment.
- Choosing the right ladder or scaffold for the job.
- Contacting the supervisor when there are safety concerns or obviously unaddressed fall hazards.
The vast majority (74.8%) of fatal falls happen from roofs, ladders and scaffolds, or those locations we commonly think of as being a fall risk. Falls on the same level, like slips and trips, are responsible for only 1.2% of fall fatalities but account for 28.9% of fall injuries on work sites.
But 63.7% of fall injuries happen from slips and trips on ladders or falls on the same level. In other words, you don’t have to fall from a height to get hurt. A simple puddle or tripping hazard could easily result in broken bones or other serious injuries.
This means fall prevention strategies can’t focus only on heights but also must pay attention to hazards on the ground. Your employer and coworkers also have responsibilities in ensuring the ground stays free from hazards that could result in a serious accident.
No matter how you look at it, falls are a serious concern when you work in construction. Staying safe and avoiding workplace accidents is a team effort.