Fatality Rate Still Too High: Fall Prevention in Construction

Fall prevention in construction has been an ongoing hot topic with OSHA – and it does not look like it is going anywhere any time soon.

Falls in Construction Statistics

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2015- released on December 16, 2016:

“The 937 fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015 represented the highest total since 975 cases in 2008.

“Falls to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls. Of those cases where the height of the fall was known, more than two-fifths of fatal falls occurred from 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015.”

In Massachusetts, yet another fatality occurred when a 30 year-old man was working on a steel construction site at New England Sports Center in Marlborough, MA. The sports center is undergoing an 88,830 expansion that will include two new ice rinks.

Responders rushed the man to Marlborough Hospital where he later died of his injuries.
The accident is currently under investigation by local authorities and OSHA.

Fall prevention programs are important to reduce the potential hazard of falls like these. To comply with OSHA standards for the construction industry, any time a worker is at a height of six feet or more the worker must be protected.

Fall Protection

OSHA standards for construction (CFR 1926) state that fall protection must be provided for each employee on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge at a height of six feet for construction.

Employers have a responsibility to provide fall protection programs, training on the fall protection program, and ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of the program.

It is important to select the correct fall prevention strategy or combination of strategies for the work being performed. 

According to OSHA, you should use at least one of the following whenever employees are exposed to a fall of 6 feet or more:
•Guardrail Systems
•Safety Net Systems
•Fall Arrest Systems
•Immediately cover or guard floor holes as soon as they are created.
•Guard or cover any openings or holes immediately.
•Construct all floor hole covers so they will effectively support two times the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.
• In general, it is better to use fall prevention systems, such as guardrails, than fall protection systems, such as safety nets or fall arrest devices.

New Walking and Working Surfaces Standard for General Industry

Construction, while it currently carries the highest rate of fatalities due to falls, is not alone in concerns regarding falls at work. In November 2016, OSHA  updated the Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards for General Industry. The rule incorporates advances in technology and industry best practices to improve worker protection. The updates apply to subpart D- Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards, and subpart I- personal fall protection systems.

Fall Protection and Walking-Working Surface Safety Training

United Alliance Services offers several fall protection courses:

4 Hour Fall Protection Awareness (Construction & General Industry)
8 Hour Fall Protection for the Competent Person (Construction)
24 EM 385 Fall Protection (Construction, US Corps of Army Engineers)

We also provide an OSHA Walking-Working Surface Rule update training for General Industry.
To schedule a class, call (774) 302-4305.