Back to Basics is a new weekly feature that highlights important but possibly overlooked information that any EHS professional should know. This week, we examine falls in construction and how to prevent them.
Falls are a major safety issue in any industry, but especially in construction, where they are the leading cause of death. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there were 320 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities in 2018.
Since 2012, OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Occupational Research Agenda – Construction Section on a fall prevention campaign designed to raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards in construction.
OSHA offers a variety of resources as part of its fall prevention campaign, which it breaks down into three steps:
- PLAN ahead to get the job done safely
- PROVIDE the right equipment
- TRAIN everyone to use equipment safely
When planning projects that involve heights, employers must ensure the job is done safely by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment will be required, according to OSHA.
Safety equipment should be included in cost estimates for a job so that employers can ensure that they have all the necessary tools and equipment on site. For a roofing job, employers should consider all potential fall hazards, such holes or skylights and leading edges, and then plan and select the appropriate fall protection for that work.
Workers who are 6 feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death in the event of a fall, according to OSHA. Employers should provide fall protection for these workers and the right equipment such as ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear.
For roof work, if workers are using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Also, make sure the PFAS fits properly and regularly inspect it for safe use.
Train every worker on proper setup and safe use of equipment they use on the job. Employers must train works on how to recognize hazards on the job. OSHA provides training resources including fact sheets, toolbox talks, videos, and reports.
Ladder safety is crucial. Employees must be trained to properly use a ladder, including the following safety measures:
- Maintain three points of contact
- Place the ladder on level footing
- Always face the ladder
- Secure ladder by locking the metal braces at the center
- Don’t overreach
- Don’t walk the ladder
Scaffold safety is another important training area. Include safety measures such as the following:
- During setup, fully plank scaffolds, complete all guardrails, ensure stable footing and plumb and level
- Ensure proper access to scaffolds
- A competent person must inspect the scaffold before use
- Don’t climb over cross braces
- Don’t stand on guardrails
- Don’t use a ladder on a scaffold
To ensure roof safety, train employees to avoid fall hazards on a roof and properly use fall protection equipment. This includes the following safety measures:
- Ensure that harness fits and is not defective when using PFAS
- Always stay connected/tie off
- Ensure that all anchor points are safe
- Protect all holes, openings, and skylights
- Don’t sit or walk on skylights or other openings
OSHA provides a slew of educational materials and resources for workers and employers, including posters, wallet cards, publications, fact sheets, and a phone app.