Every year, falls consistently account for the most fatalities in construction. More than 300 workers lost their lives in 2014 (according to preliminary BLS data), making falls the most common cause of death in the industry. “But I’m not on a skyscraper,” you say. “I should be fine.” Do you ever work on a ladder? Sit on a roof? Stand on scaffolding? If you’re more than 4 feet above the ground, you are at risk. Falls don’t have to be fatal to be devastating, either. Construction workers suffer traumatic brain injury at a rate higher than the rest of the U.S. workforce. Hard hats can provide some measure of protection but a fall can permanently debilitate a worker. And that’s not even mentioning broken spines or other bones that can put workers out of commission for good.
Here’s the thing about falls: they’re preventable. OSHA has reported that fall prevention safety standards are among the 10 most frequently cited standards in 2014. That’s why they have partnered with NIOSH, ASSE, NSC, and other groups to recognize National Fall Prevention Stand-Down Week, an annual campaign to encourage companies to schedule a toolbox talk or other activity such as a safety inspection, development of a rescue plan, or discussion on job specific hazards. A Safety Stand-Down is a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to employees about safety. The 2016 Stand-Down campaign focuses on “Fall Hazards” and reinforcing the importance of “Fall Prevention”.
How can you keep workers safe? Plan ahead, provide the right equipment, and train employees properly.
- Always use the right ladder for the job
- Maintain three points of contact
- Secure the ladder and place it on even footing
- Always face the ladder, don’t overreach, and don’t stand on the top
- Wear a good-fitting harness and stay connected.
- Use guardrails or lifelines and don’t disconnect
- Inspect all fall protection equipment before use
- Guard or cover all holes, openings, and skylights
- Make sure the scaffolding is fully planked, leveled and plumbed
- Ensure proper access and egress, stable footing
- Complete all guardrails
- Wear a good-fitting harness and stay connected
- Have a competent person inspect the scaffolding before use