We need protection because even those of us with experience working at heights can lose our balance or grip; we can slip, trip, or misstep at any time. We may think that our reflexes will protect us, but even if we have great balancing and motor skills, we are at risk of falling. We've been falling since Day One. Until we get better at landing, we'll need protection from falling.
And, as the photo to the right illustrates, some people just don't understand fall hazards. Consequently they do things at work and home that defy good sense. The information in this course will help alert and prevent workers from falls.
Construction is a potentially high hazard industry for those who work in it, with falls at the top of the hazards list. In fact, falls are the most frequent cause of fatalities at construction sites and annually account for one of every three construction-related deaths. Although there are commonly available methods for preventing falls, the number of construction workers who fall to their deaths has increased in recent years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 668 workers in 2012. Falls to a lower level accounted for just more than 80% of those fatalities in that same year.
Of this total falls from roofs are one specific concern at construction sites and the most frequent cause for fatal falls in construction. In fact, BLS reports that from 2003 to 2007 construction worker falls from roofs resulted in 686 fatalities.
Below is a prioritized list showing the types of falls that cause the most non-fatal injuries. As you can see, most fall injuries are caused by falls from ladders.
For many in the construction industry, when speaking of fall-protection, equipment is the first thing that comes to mind: personal fall-arrest systems, safety nets, or guardrails, for example. But fall protection means more than equipment. Fall protection is what you do to eliminate fall hazards, to prevent falls, and to ensure that workers who may fall are not injured.
Although fall hazards are common at construction worksites, fall-related injuries and fatalities are preventable. Fall hazards can be addressed in two main ways:
To prevent falls, be sure to do the following:
It’s important to use a systematic “Hierarchy of Controls” specifically for fall protection. In descending order of preference, the hierarchy of controls for fall protection is as follows:
Everyone at the construction worksite has a role to play in preventing falls.
On a Friday in June, an estimator arrived at a remodel job to look at a cedar-shake roof and estimate the cost of an addition that a construction crew was building. He spoke to the supervisor at the site and climbed to the roof through an open skylight, using a metal extension ladder.However, he was unaware that the contractor had used a sheet of thin insulating material to cover three 2-by-6-foot skylight openings in the roof (it had rained the day before). He stepped onto the insulating material, fell through one of the skylights, and landed on his back, 15 feet below.
The supervisor and two subcontractors heard the estimator fall and rushed to the accident. One of the subcontractors used his cell phone to call emergency medical services. EMTs arrived about five minutes later, stabilized the victim and took him to a hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for spinal injuries.
Findings: The employer failed to properly cover the skylight openings on the roof or warn workers about the hazard.
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