Fall-related accidents account for a significant number of injuries as well as fatalities in the United States. Just to name a few, trades such as tree trimmers, roofers, framers, siding contractors, brick masons and painters all work on elevated levels and are therefore exposed to this hazard. This leads to the issue of effective fall protection measures. In most cases, employees tend not to take the time to observe their surroundings and determine what hazards are present. Additionally, smaller contractors lack the knowledge and skill set regarding fall protection standards and are unaware of the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) regulations for fall protection. There are cases in which contractors have a fall protection plan, train their employees, and have adequate safety measures in place; however, employees will still take chances and not use fall protection.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
In the United States alone, fatalities resulting from falls continue to be an issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statics preliminary figures, in 2011 falls from elevated levels accounted for 541 fatal work-related injuries. Most recently Falls increased more than 25 percent in 2016 and continues an upward trend (BLS, 2016). More than half of these fatalities were from levels of 20 feet or less. This figure only lists the deaths and not the employees that sustained non-fatal injuries. If employers applied due diligence in regard to the implementation and effective enforcement of fall protection measures, there is a possibility that these figures can be reduced. Frequently falls can be attributed to human errors such as inattention to surroundings, not using fall protection, failing to follow safety policies, and using faulty fall protection equipment. However, there are some cases where employers fail to protect their employees.
Take for instance the following case where Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined a contractor for not performing fall protection training. An employee fell 27 feet to his death when a scaffold plank gave way. The accident occurred at a Keene Middle School job site where the contractor, MacMillin Co Inc., was contracted to do work. OSHA’s investigation concluded that the employer failed to (1) train employees on the proper procedures for erecting scaffold, and (2) provide fall protection training for employees working on scaffold. Furthermore, the employer knew of the potential hazard and took no corrective action to mitigate the danger. Failing to train the employee on fall protection and the proper installation of a scaffolding system, contributed to the employees’ fatal fall. Under OSHA Standard CFR 1926.501, employers must have a fall protection plan and all employees are to be properly trained in the use of fall protection systems. Whether an employee is full time, part-time, or temporary, an employer is must provide fall protection training for employees working at heights six feet and greater (construction). If an employer has a fall protection plan and fails to adhere to the outlined safety measures, it will be as useful as a rusted tool in a dumpster.
Fall Protection as A Life Saving Tool
In order for the plan to be a lifesaving tool, it should be a part of the daily process. If and when an employee is not complying with the provisions of the plan, then corrective actions as well as retraining should be conducted. Furthermore, a well written fall protection plan, which identifies a hazard and ways in which to mitigate risks is worth the effort no matter if it's inconvenient. Click here to see a Sample Outline of a Fall Protection Plan
Fall-related accidents account for a large number of injuries as well as fatalities on an annual basis. Trades that are required to work six feet and above are often faced with fall hazards and often become victims. Lack of fall protection training, lack of fall protection plans, risk vs reward, encumbrance of fall protection regulations, and complaints of slowing down the project all factors that come into play when dealing with this issue.
Huang, X., & Hinze, J. (2003). Analysis of Construction Worker Fall Accidents. Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management, 129(3), 262.
Occupational Safety and Health. (2012). Region 1 news release: 12-2391-BOS/BOS 2012-228 Dec.17, 2012.
Occupational Safety and Health (n.d). Sample fall protection plan. Retrieved from. http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential_fall_protection/sample_fall_protection.html