OSHA cracking down on residential construction industry after spike in fatal falls

Safety training can prevent falls and save lives.

Eighty percent of residential roofers killed on-the-job die from injuries sustained in falls.

The number of fatal falls in the American construction industry is on the rise, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The statistics are troubling. Last year, 190 residential construction workers died on-the-job, a 23 percent increase over 2011. One in two such fatalities are due to falls, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, and a staggering eight in 10 residential roofers who are killed at work fall to their deaths.

In light of the recent increase in residential construction falls, OSHA is trying to crack down on businesses that violate fall protection safety standards, hitting them with heavy financial penalties.

“Falls continue to be the leading cause of death in construction,” OSHA area director Brian Sturtecky said in a release after fining a Florida contractor $188,000 earlier this year. “It is imperative that any employee working from heights more than six feet be provided the proper fall protection equipment and trained how to properly use it.”

Sturtecky’s emphasis on training is key. While all construction companies should provide their workers with fall protection equipment, they must also invest in safety training or the tools themselves are useless. Mastery Technologies offers cost-effective, efficient online courses to meet this need, getting your team up-to-speed and on-site as quickly and safely as possible. Check out all of Mastery’s courses on fall protection, and those featuring the construction industry.

Here are several important safety tips to get you started:

  • Assess fall hazards: Fall hazards can be many and varied, and as an employer or site manager, it is your responsibility to assess all potential risks. These may include: ladders, skylights, wall openings, roof lines, holes, excavations, etc.
  • Choose the appropriate fall protection: Learn how to choose and use fall protection (guard rails, fences, hole covers, personal fall arrest systems, safety nets, harnesses, etc.) based on the setting and job.
  • Consider those below: Remember that fall protection isn’t just about protecting workers up high. Ask yourself whether team members on the ground are at risk of being hit by falling debris.
  • Even low falls can be fatal: The Wall Street Journal shares the story of a seasoned construction professional who was killed after falling from a first-floor roof. Often, even a fall from a relatively low height can be fatal.
  • Provide bilingual training: If any member of your crew is not completely proficient in English, it is crucial you offer safety training in their first language. That’s why Mastery Technologies has training available in Spanish.

In its effort to prevent further fatal falls, OSHA has even made the unprecedented move of trying to wrest control of construction workplace safety from Arizona, arguing that existing safety measures there are insufficient to keep employees safe. In the state, workers are required to use fall protection only once they are 15 feet above the ground or higher — more than twice the six-foot standard set by the federal government. (Until recently, the Wall Street Journal reports, residential contractors were exempt from that rule.)

If you are a contractor or other construction industry professional, be sure to invest in fall prevention training from Mastery Technologies. Falls can cause serious injury or even death to your workers, a devastating experience for any employer. Additionally, such accidents can prove extremely costly in terms of lost productivity, OSHA fines, workers’ compensation claims and civil lawsuits. Don’t wait to protect yourself and your employees. Invest in training your team today.

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