Accounting for one-third of all accidents in the construction industry, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury on the construction site. In fact, according to the United States Department of Labor, 349 of the 874 construction-related fatalities in 2014 were due to a fall. The unfortunate reality of this statistic is that with the right procedures and protocol in place, many of these fatalities could have been prevented.
Fall Protection Means More than Equipment
If you conduct a survey asking construction workers to name the first thing that comes to mind when they think of fall protection, most of them will probably name the equipment. Unfortunately, while there is little doubt that guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraints dramatically reduce the risk of injury, this protective equipment remains only part of the fall protection equation.
Too often, due to a lack of standardized training, fall protection equipment gets misused or mishandled. Anyone can lose their grip or be caught off balance. Compounding matters is the simple fact that despite bad habits and lack of supervision, many workers incorrectly assume that their past experiences with fall protection equipment is adequate enough to keep them from becoming injured.
To reduce the risk of equipment misuse, a comprehensive fall protection plan needs to be put in place. Beginning by first identifying common fall hazards, the plan should also include safety training and routine equipment maintenance plans. Click here for a Sample Fall Protection Plan from OSHA.
Eliminating the Risk When Possible
According to the Hierarchy of Controls as defined by OSHA, the best way to deal with a safety hazard is to completely eliminate it before any workers are exposed to the hazard.
In terms of fall protection, this means carefully performing a fall hazard analysis and identifying ways in which these hazards can be completely avoided.
Examples of way to eliminate falls hazards include:
- Using tool extensions when performing work from the ground
- Installing permanent stairs, platforms and guardrails before the project begins
- Installing guardrails and anchors on formwork and structural steel beams on the ground before lifting them into place
In the end, accidents do not have to a commonly accepted part of the construction industry. With a combination of the right installation, equipment, and training, you can eliminate fall-related emergencies in your workplace. For more information, Download a Copy of OSHA’s Fall Protection in the Construction Industry Handbook.