Unacceptable: 5 construction workers a week killed by falls

July 11, 2013  |  News & Trends

New data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) says that approximately 5 construction workers a week are killed by falls from heights. Nearly half of them (48.8%) are from heights of 20 ft. or less, which demonstrates that you don't have to fall far to be seriously injured or killed. This alarming data, cited in a recent article on the ISHN magazine website, underscores the importance of utilizing proper protective equipment when working at heights.

The infographic below compares fatal falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs.

Fatal falls in construction

How can we reduce this alarming number of fatalities? Here are some tips to help improve your job site safety (feel free to share it on your social media channels):

General tips

  • Always use fall protection harnesses to tie into roofs, scaffolds and other raised work platforms, such as aerial lifts.
  • Keep work areas clear of junk and debris, which can cause tripping hazards.

Ladders

  • Whenever possible, use a spotter when climbing a ladder, who can hold onto its base and steady it while you climb
  • Maintain three points of contact on ladders (two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand).
  • Ladders should be placed one foot away from the surface it rests against for every 4 ft. of height. Any steeper than that, and the ladder could become unstable.
  • Position the ladder as close as possible to the work area. Don't overreach, which could cause it to become unstable.
  • Do not use ladders during windy or inclement weather conditions, when slips and falls are much more likely.

Scaffolding

  • Inspect scaffolding to ensure that its structural members are in good condition and are tightly connected together using proper retention parts, not nails or other improvised connectors. Planking should be in good condition and should extend at least 6 in. beyond the end supports.
  • Adjust the plumb and level of the scaffolding using its jackscrews; a level work surface is essential to providing a safe working environment.
  • Heavy tools and supplies should be hoisted up to the working level of the scaffold, rather than carried up by hand.
  • Workers on scaffolds must wear non-slip shoes; hard hats should be worn at all times to prevent injury or death from falling objects.
  • According to OSHA regulations, if a scaffold is more than 10 ft. tall, workers on it must use fall protection devices. Use a harness, not a body belt, for fall protection.

According to one Bureau of Labor and Statistics report, 72% of workers injured in scaffold accidents attributed the accident either to the planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.

Roofs

  • OSHA requires fall protection systems for any roof higher than 6 ft. above the lower levels, using a guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest system.
  • When wearing a fall protection harness, tie off to a fall-resistant device.
  • Constantly inspect the roof and immediately remove any tripping hazards, such as cords, tools and construction debris.
  • Many construction workers think that wearing a safety harness makes them look "uncool." Do you want to look cool or be alive? Pick one.

In closing, don't become a statistic. Just because an accident HASN'T happened doesn't mean it WON'T happen. Use common sense to help prevent injuries and deaths from falls.

P.S. Be sure to check out these training resources from the VISTA Store:


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