Of the “Fatal Four” types of construction deaths, fatal incidents involving falls are the most common. In 2013, 302 of 828 deaths in the construction industry were caused by falls, according to OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same reporting period, falls accounted for 699 worker deaths in all industries, with 574 caused by a fall to a lower level. OSHA has created a fall prevention campaign to help aid employers and employees in every industry lower these figures.
Fatal fall incidents occur in every type of construction job out there, and they happen under all types of circumstances. Falling from an elevation is more likely to end in death than same-level falls. Different types of fall protection are mandated, depending on the type and height of the workspace.
Ladders, one of the most basic and common pieces of equipment on a construction site, remain a major cause of fall injury and death. It is such a concern that NIOSH has even created a mobile app dedicated solely to the safe use of ladders, with information about correct ladder selection, positioning, safe use, and more.
Falls from scaffolding are another big contributor, caused by everything from improper setup of the scaffolding to workers not utilizing the correct personal protection equipment. Some basics of scaffold setup and safety can be found here, with easy to print and understand guides and checklists available in both English and Spanish.
Those workers who spend a majority time at higher elevations are even more at risk. Roofers account for a large portion of construction fall fatalities, as do other occupations such as steelworkers. In one in-depth study, falls from roofs and other structures accounted for more than half of deaths. Many incidents aren’t just from falling off of a roof onto the ground; workers can also fall through openings in the roof, or through roofing material that isn’t capable of supporting their weight, such as skylights. Some great roof/fall training materials providing more fall scenarios along with safety guidelines are available online.
Construction fall fatality prevention is and should be a big focus on safety training for any construction company, big or small. Taking advantage of online resources is a good way to learn more and find new ways to help keep workers informed about the importance of fall prevention measures. One informative site even includes an interactive map that includes real life fall fatality incidents. This information is recorded and given to help decrease the number of fall related construction deaths and could help to save hundreds of lives a year.
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