Preventing falls in construction
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are the leading cause of death among construction workers on the job, who average more than 310 fatal falls and 10,350 serious fall-related injuries a year. Additionally, the majority of fatal falls from scaffolds (86 percent), roofs (81 percent) and ladders (57 percent) occur in construction with a disproportionate number of those injuries and fatalities coming from small residential construction contractors.
The sixth annual National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls — established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2014 as part of the National Falls Campaign to raise awareness surrounding the severity of fall hazards in construction and the importance of preventing them — will take place the week of May 6–10, 2019. The goal of this national campaign is to prevent fatal falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds by encouraging residential construction contractors to plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide the right equipment and train everyone to use the equipment safely.
Construction sites are dynamic spheres of activity where workers engage in many responsibilities that may expose them to a variety of safety hazards such as falling objects and working from rooftops or scaffolding. The International Code Council is just as concerned about jobsite injury prevention and ensuring the safety of code officials and construction workers as it is about building safety and making our communities safer and more resilient. Starting May 1, the Code Council kicks off Building Safety Month 2019, which raises awareness about building safety and building safety building codes. Week five of the international month-long event covers Innovations in Building Safety and shows how science and technology are leading the way to not only designing and constructing safe, efficient and resilient homes and buildings but also for ensuring job site safety for construction workers, code officials and other skilled technicians.
In a construction setting, the term “safety stand-down” is used to describe a wide variety of activities where normal work is paused and the entire site focuses on a particular safety issue. While some employers may use stand-downs to call attention to specific hazards present on their site as an intervention, the campaign has adopted the use of the stand-down to draw attention to fall hazards in a nationwide weeklong event. It’s an opportunity for employers to pause work and have a conversation with workers about fall hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety policies, goals and expectations. This should also be an opportunity for workers to talk to management about fall hazards they see.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Program studies fatal workplace injuries and has published a new fact sheet intended to help construction employers and workers prevent falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds. The fact sheet, which stresses the importance of training and regular ladder and scaffold maintenance, offers several recommendations for avoiding falls:
For workers on roofs
Implement a fall protection program, wear proper fall protection and undergo corresponding training.
Use correct anchorage for fall arrest systems.
Use a buddy system.
Monitor weather conditions when working at height.
For workers on ladders
Choose the right ladder for the job.
Don’t overload the ladder.
Use the ladder on flat, level ground.
Face the ladder while climbing and maintain three points of contact at all times.
For workers on scaffolds
Train and assign a person to supervise scaffold setup.
Ensure scaffolds comply with manufacturer guidelines and OSHA standards.
Place scaffolds on stable ground or surfaces.
Inspect scaffolds and scaffold parts before each use.
Visit the following sites for more information and resources:
CDC Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Falls Campaign Site
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Falls Campaign
Stop Construction Falls Campaign