After recently creating a unique database from numbers provided by the CDC’s NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program (FACE), researchers with the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) discovered that, over a 33-year period, falls accounted for nearly half of all construction worker deaths. And of that number, over half happened because workers were not using fall-protection equipment. Reports for 768 construction industry fatalities between 1982 and 2015 revealed that:
- 42 percent (325) of all construction fatalities involved falls.
- 54 percent of the workers killed in falls had no access to a personal fall arrest system (PFAS), and 23 percent had access to a PFAS but did not use it.
- Most of the workers with no access to PFAS worked for residential building, roofing, siding, and sheet metal contractors.
- 107 of the 325 fatal falls were from 30 feet or higher.
- 20 percent of fall deaths occurred in the victims’ first two months on the job.
“Even though this study was unable to assess effectiveness of OSHA [Occupational Health and Safety Administration] fall protection standards established in 1995, a considerable number of fall fatalities from lower heights provides strong evidence of the need for the OSHA requirement that fall protection be provided at elevations of 6 feet or more in the construction industry,” researchers said.
In the study’s abstract, the researchers say their new database enabled them to analyze FACE reports “quantitatively and efficiently, to improve understanding of work-related fatalities injury prevention.”
To prevent employees from being injured from falls, the CPWR encourages the following guidelines and practices:
- Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
- Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway.
- Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent worker falls.
- Other means of fall protection including safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails where appropriate.
OSHA also requires employers to:
- Provide danger-free working conditions wherever possible.
- Keep floors in work areas clean and, as far as possible, dry.
- Select and provide required personal protective equipment free to workers.
- Train workers about job hazards in a language they can understand.
Furthermore, the CPWR recommends the following:
When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include provisions for purchase of specific safety equipment for the work performed and have it be available at the construction site. An example for a roofing job: think about all of the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select appropriate fall protection, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).
Employers should also secure (or make certain their contractors have) the right ladders or scaffolds to complete the job safely. For roof work, if workers use PFAS, provide a harness for each worker to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits and is regularly inspected.
If you’ve been injured by a fall on the construction site, or a family member has been killed by one, we at Kaplan Lawyers PC are available to answer your legal questions arising from these accidents. Contact us through our online form or call 516-399-2364.