Preventing Falls During Construction

Falls are the leading cause of construction death. Don’t think a fall can happen to you? Every year more than 200 construction workers are killed and another 1,000 are seriously injured by a fall. Falls happen every day and they can be deadly.

Preventing falls is one of the National Safety Council’s four areas of focus during 2017’s National Safety Month, but fall prevention is critical for construction professionals every day.

The Money Saving Benefits of Preventing Falls

Fall prevention saves lives; but it can also save money for your construction business, too. Fall prevention standards are among OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited standards, which means costly safety fines for those cited. Jobsite accidents can also drive up insurance costs or worse -- lead to expensive lawsuits and medical bills for firms without adequate insurance protection.

Investing in safety training and equipment is a small expense compared to the potential for fines, increased insurance costs, loss of time, and potential litigations that can happen after an accident.

How to Prevent Construction Falls

OSHA recommends three steps to prevent construction-related falls:

Plan Ahead

Plan ahead to get the job done safely. Know what job needs to be done, how it will be done, and what safety equipment will be needed to complete the task. Take a page from some of the largest construction firms around with the best safety records: have a daily crew meetings in which supervisors go over the daily work plan and job-specific safety training for those potentially exposed to falls.

Provide the Right Equipment

The biggest fall risk in construction is to workers who are 6 feet or more above lower levels. These workers can be protected with the right safety equipment for the job. Beamers, retractables, rope-grabs, beam straps, butterfly anchors, concrete plunger anchors and retractable lanyards can all be useful tools that can save lives when used correctly. Employers should also provide the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders and scaffolds.

Train Everyone

Safety equipment saves lives... when it’s used correctly. Every worker should be trained on recognizing hazards on the job, the proper use of safety equipment, and identifying failures in equipment. Even a tiny tear in the webbing lanyard of a harness can lower its failure point up to 40%. Just providing safety equipment isn’t enough; it’s critical to be sure that equipment is maintained, is working properly, and is used correctly.

Protecting Yourself from Falls

Construction owners, managers, and supervisors have a big responsibility for fall prevention on the construction site. But contractors and workers should also take responsibility for jobsite safety. A Kimberly-Clark professional survey found that discomfort was the leading reason that workers were reluctant to wear PPE (personal protective equipment). The second most common reason was the belief that PPE wasn’t necessary for the task; workers had performed a task for years and never been injured. The third most common reason for not wearing safety equipment was that it was unattractive or ill-fitting.

Not wearing or using safety equipment because it’s uncomfortable, unattractive, or because you’ve never needed it before can put you at risk for a fatal fall.

A fall may cost your boss in fines, citations, or increased insurance costs -- but it could cost you your life.

OSHA Tips to Prevent Falls for Workers

Fall protection guidelines for workers, to keep you safe from the most common causes of falls:

Prevent falls from roofs

  • Wear a harness and always stay connected
  • Make sure your harness fits
  • Use guardrails or lifelines Inspect all fall protection equipment before use
  • Guard or cover all holes, openings, and skylights

Prevent falls from ladders

  • Choose the right ladder for the job
  • Maintain three points of contact
  • Secure the ladder
  • Always face the ladder

Prevent falls from scaffolds

  • Use fully planked scaffolds
  • Ensure proper access to scaffold
  • Plumb and level
  • Complete ALL guardrails
  • Ensure stable footing - inspect before use (by competent person)

Prevent general falls

  • Understand your company’s written fall prevention plan
  • Participate in fall prevention training
  • Use fall-protection equipment, if required for the job
  • Be sure the equipment is right for the task, in good condition, and fits properly
  • Inspect fall protection equipment and devices before each use
  • Make sure that floor holes, open shafts, and riser penetrations are protected by sturdy guardrails or covers
  • Get specialized training before working on scaffolds, lifts, or ladders
  • When using scaffolds, make sure there is proper access, full planking, stable footing, and guard railing
  • Keep your feet firmly on the platform on a boom lift, and tie-off at all times.
  • Chose the correct ladder for the task, read the instructions, and be sure that the ladder is in good condition.
  • Check for surrounding hazards, stable footing, and the proper angle.
  • Identify skylights, and make sure they are properly protected.
  • Contact your supervisor if you see fall hazards or have any questions about fall prevention. Do not work until unsafe conditions have been corrected.

Create a Culture of Safety

Small to medium-sized construction firms may struggle with investing the time and money into safety programs, but the initial investment can pay off in the long run. When you create a safety-conscious culture at your company, you can prevent accidents, lower overall business costs, and save lives.

Make Safety a Priority

A survey commissioned by the International Safety Equipment Association of safety influencers in the heavy construction industry found the main reason workers chose not to wear personal protective equipment was because their employers don’t require or enforce usage. Your workers will prioritize what you prioritize.

Make Safety a Habit

Have daily crew meetings and briefs where job-specific safety measures are discussed. Make safety issues part of every meeting. Integrate safety awareness and practices throughout all aspects of the project.

Make a Top Down Commitment

An upper management commitment to safety as a top priority can be one of the most effective elements in any safety program. Safety concerns should come from upper management to lower management, safety directors to supervisors. The best way to create a culture of safety at your company is to be sure that everyone is committed to worker safety at every level in the organization.

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