On the heels of the end of OSHA’s second annual National Safety Stand-Down two-week initiative May 4-15, many workers hope safety will remain a top priority for employers and employees.
National Safety Stand-Down, geared toward construction workers, began as a way to generate awareness of fall prevention and overall safety. During this time period, employers and workers were encouraged to take a break and discuss fall protection at work sites.
Entities such as OSHA and participating companies such as Capital Safety also took the time to visit construction sites across the U.S. to hold demonstrations, training sessions and talks on worker safety.
Why is fall protection important?
According to OSHA statistics, in 2012, 279 of 806 construction worker deaths were caused by preventable falls. Fatal falls are part of the “Fatal Four,” the leading cause of construction worker deaths, in addition to being struck by objects, electrocutions and being caught in between machines or other materials.
Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 478 worker lives every year.
“Every day in this country, construction workers fall. One wrong step and they’re tumbling down a steeply pitched roof, sliding or dropping off an unstable ladder, or left hanging from a scaffold. The difference between an unexpected stumble and tragedy is simple: fall protection,” OSHA said in a recent release.
If a fall does not result in death, it can result in serious, debilitating injury. This can result in loss of ability to work, loss of limbs and large lawsuits.
Falls can be caused by human error and equipment-related issues. It is the responsibility of the employers to assess work areas and determine what precautions need to be taken to ensure employee safety and security. Oftentimes regulated personal fall protection is required and must be routinely checked for effectiveness.
OSHA requires fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in construction and 8 feet in longshoring.
Other OSHA requirements for employers include:
- Keeping work floor areas clean and dry
- Providing working conditions that are clear of known and tested dangerous conditions
- Training workers on possible job hazards in a manner in which they can understand.
It is not enough to have posted these protections. They must be communicated an in effective manner in a language in which all workers can understand.
In order to reduce falls, implement the following tips into your worksite:
- Although there are height requirements for protection, employees should also use their own judgment when determining if protection is needed, even if it isn’t required.
- Providing other safety materials such as harnesses, safety nets and hand rails as deemed fit for the site.
- Have a guardrail around every elevated open-sided platform.
- Use railings, toe-boards or floor hole covers to cover holes that workers can fall through.
Based on past statistics and future predictions, workers will die if fall safety is not implemented. Not every accident can be prevented, but employers are expected to, both morally and legally, try their best to prevent worker injury and death. Training can be a great first step.