Contractors are at high risk of falling from an elevated location while at work. In fact, falling is a leading cause of injury and the number one cause of death for construction workers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 291 out of 828 total fatalities in the construction industry were caused by falling. The important thing to remember is these falls are completely preventable. Contractors can significantly reduce their falling risk by observing safety measures, undergoing adequate training, and using the proper equipment.
Always Use Safety GearÂ and Understand How it Works
Make sure to take advantage of all safety equipment provided to you and inspect it to be sure it’s in good condition before use. Proper use of personal fall arrest systems, guardrails, and safety nets can greatly reduce the risk of falls. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has rules and regulations regarding fall protection in the construction industry. Generally, workers stationed atop any elevated location above six feet (including leading edges, unprotected sides and edges, hoist areas, formwork, reinforcing steel, ramps, runways, walkways, and excavations) must be protected from falling risk with guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. These regulations applies to heights less than six feet when the contractor is positioned above dangerous machinery or chemicals. Check out this Publication on Fall Protection in Construction by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for more information on these and other regulations concerning fall protection. If you don’t feel your employer provides adequate or proper safety gear, you should discuss this issue with your general contractor or supervisor.
Choose the Right Equipment for the Job
Choose the right equipment for the job when working with ladders and scaffolds. This equipment should be appropriate in height and other features (extension, wooden, step) for the project at hand. Adequate training in the safe use of this equipment is important to preventing falls. Pay attention during training sessions and don’t be afraid to speak up if you do not understand something. This information could be life saving.
Areas With Highest Risk of Falls
The most common fall locations include ladders, roofs, scaffolds, and other elevated areas with holds, skylights, and edges. The risk increases with height and workers stationed six or more feet above the ground are considered to be at risk for serious injury. Be aware of the dangers of these areas and take extra precautions when working atop these surfaces. Remember to complete as many tasks as possible on solid ground before ascending to the elevated location. This could include project planning, placement of safety gear, testing of equipment, and other preparation tasks. Your goal should be to figure out the details of the project before exposing yourself to the falling risk. Let’s look more specifically at safety tips for the top three locations of falls: Ladders, roofs, and scaffolds. Ladder Safety Tips
- Receive proper training and speak up if you need further information or don’t fully understand
- Mind the foundation by placing the ladder on a solid and level surface
- Confirm the ladder is locked before climbing
- Keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times
- Don’t reach too high when atop the ladder; choose one with a taller height instead
Roof Safety Tips
- Avoid sitting or walking on skylights
- Stay aware of other openings and keep a safe distance
- Use safety protections near holes
- Check all anchor points when using a personal fall arrest system
Scaffold Safety Tips
- Ensure the foundation is solid and level ground
- Always inspect the scaffold carefully before use
- Don’t put weight on guardrails or cross braces
- Never stack scaffolds and ladders
Sometimes falls happen due to mistakes or accidents despite safety precautions. If you are a contractor that sufferedÂ a fall at work, you may be eligibleÂ to receive compensation for your injury. Check out Tips for Injured Construction Workers for more information.