Falls are responsible for around 300 construction worker deaths annually, or almost one-third of all such fatalities, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This makes falls the leading cause of death at construction sites. Falls also cause countless additional injuries.
Some key contributing factors to the prevalence of falls include unstable work surfaces, human error, disregarding recommended safety procedures and protocols, and failure to use appropriate safety equipment (or use it correctly).
Workers 6 feet or more above ground or lower levels are considered at high risk for death and serious injury. However, any fall can be dangerous. Below are some important steps for preventing job site falls and their resulting injuries and deaths.
Safety Tips to Reduce Falls at Job Sites
- Train workers to correctly use all safety equipment, to recognize and address potential fall hazards, and in proper safety procedures; create and enforce comprehensive safety rules
- Inspect all safety equipment prior to use; replace or properly repair damaged equipment—never use it
- Use grab line systems, guardrails (with toeboards and warning lines), safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems to keep workers safe at heights
- Inspect all climbing and elevated work surfaces regularly for strength, stability, and damage; address potential hazards immediately
- Clear surfaces of mud, wet leaves, snow, or ice before use
- Keep all surfaces clear of tools, accessories, and other possible tripping hazards (items can also fall, of course, resulting in injuries or deaths below)
- Never struggle to reach work areas; use scaffolding, elevated platforms, aerial lifts, or properly sized ladders to easily and safely access
- Never climb up, stand on, or walk across items or surfaces that aren’t intended for that purpose
- Ensure scaffolding is erected and regularly inspected by trained, qualified professionals
- As per OSHA regulations, a secure step must be provided anywhere workers must step up or down more than 19 inches
- Know and follow all maximum load-bearing instructions
- Securely cover all holes of any size at the construction site
- Develop an emergency fall response plan for workers who fall, including those who become stuck suspended from a harness or other safety equipment; ensure all foremen, supervisors, and crew are well acquainted with the plan
- Review important tips for scaffold safety
- Review important tips for ladder safety