Falls in construction account for 700 deaths every year. These deaths are caused by hazards that are defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) as anything at a worksite that could cause someone to lose his balance or lose bodily support and result in a fall. But if proper precautions are taken, these fatal accidents can be easily prevented. The first step is to understand the hazards and the safety measures workers can take to reduce their risk.
OSHA considers the following as major fall hazards
- Unprotected roof edges, roof and floor openings, structural steel and leading edges. Almost all sites have unprotected sides and edges, wall openings, or floor holes at some point during construction. If these sides and openings are not protected at the site, injuries from falls or falling objects may result, ranging from sprains and concussions to death. In addition, falls to a lower level are a major cause of fatalities in construction. Factors such as improperly covered or protected floor holes and openings are also a common fall hazard. It‘s easy to step into a hole or opening when carrying something that blocks one’s forward view.
- Improper scaffold construction. Working with heavy equipment and building materials on the limited space of a scaffold is difficult. Without fall protection or safe access, it becomes hazardous. Falls from improperly constructed scaffolds can result in injuries ranging from sprains to death. Guardrails or personal fall arrest systems for fall prevention/protection are required for workers on platforms 10 feet or higher. The majority of the workers injured in scaffold accidents attribute the mishap to factors like the planking or support giving way, or to lack of guardrails or other fall protection.
- Unsafe portable ladders. Workers risk falling if a portable ladder is not safely positioned each time they use it. While they are on a ladder, it may move and slip from its supports. Employees can also lose their balance while getting on or off an unsteady ladder. Falls from ladders can cause injuries ranging from sprains to death.
Fall hazard incidents are painful, stressful and traumatic. It’s important for conscientious workers to take all the necessary precautions to reduce these hazards and to contact a supervisor when safety measures are not met. It is also the employer’s obligation to provide their workers with safety tools and gear to help them prevent the types of accidents that can cause severe injuries.
What should be done to reduce falls?
Contractors and employers must set-up and maintain the work site place to prevent workers from falling off of overhead situations, elevated work stations or into floor and walls holes. Guarding every floor’s hole into which the workers can accidentally fall, providing a guard rail or toe board around each elevated side platform and runways, also organizing all other methods of fall protection that is required on construction sites including but not limited to safety nets, hand rails and stair railings etc.