The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is working to increase awareness of fall hazards in the construction industry.
According to the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), falls are the number one cause of fatal injuries in construction. In 2010, falls caused 267 deaths in the industry, accounting for about one-third of fatalities that year. Between 1992 and 2010, a total of 6,858 construction workers died because of fall injuries—about 360 a year.
OSHA states that most of these falls are preventable, if employers take the appropriate safety steps. To help reduce the number of employees falling victim to fall injuries, they have initiated a national campaign to educate and motivate employers to not only implement safety precautions, but to sit down and talk with employees about fall prevention.
OSHA Initiates Fall Prevention Campaign
May 2-6, 2016, was the official “National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls.” OSHA and thousands of employers nationwide participated in the events, which included designating a time and place to discuss and demonstrate how to best prevent falls.
The National Stand-Down was part of OHSA’s fall prevention campaign, which started in 2012, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Occupational Research Agenda, and the Center for Construction Research and Training.
“The men and women working in the construction industry drive our nation’s growth and prosperity,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in an OSHA press release. “They deserve access to the equipment, training and resources available to prevent falls and the tragedy they can inflict.”
Construction Also Responsible for Thousands of Nonfatal Fall Injuries
In addition to causing unnecessary deaths, construction falls can also cause a number of serious injuries. According to the CPWR, in 2010, falls led to 18,130 nonfatal injuries, accounting for 24 percent of nonfatal injuries in construction. The rate of nonfatal fall injuries in construction was 50 percent higher than all other industries combined.
Most fatal falls occur when the employee falls from a roof or ladder. Other potential causes include falling from a scaffold or staging, from a nonmoving vehicle, or falling onto a lower level. Causes of nonfatal injuries usually occurred on the same level, but also often occurred from a ladder or roof.
Falls were also distributed differently among occupations within the construction industry. Power-line installers, for instance, suffered the most deaths, followed by roofers and ironworkers. Ironworkers were most likely to suffer nonfatal injuries from falling, followed by sheet metal workers and roofers.
OSHA Provides Educational Materials for Employers
As part of their fall prevention campaign, OSHA is emphasizing three ways to save lives. These include planning ahead of time and anticipating fall hazards, providing employees with the right equipment, and training everyone to use the equipment correctly.
The administration has a number of educational materials available for employers on their website, including fall prevention wallet cards, posters, and fact sheets. Their report on 2014 and 2015 safety stand-downs indicated that other industries besides the construction industry could benefit by training employees on fall safety hazards, including the gas & oil, federal correction, maritime, and commercial aircraft industries.