Falls From Heights

As we touched upon earlier this month, falls on construction sites are among the most dangerous and deadly types of workplace injuries. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what factors lead to falls, what steps can be taken to prevent them, and a final update of the OSHA regulations which govern fall-prevention safety regulations.

Overview

Falling from a height is an obvious danger in the workplace. Workers fall off rafters, over unsecured banisters, off roofs and, sometimes, through various improperly-marked holes or weak spots in the infrastructure. Equally as dangerous, however, is falling or slipping on an even surface. Spilled liquid, slippery sand and / or particulate or other hazards litter some construction sites. Combined, and categorized under the umbrella term of “falls,” these types of injuries are among the most common and deadly in the workplace.
OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has recently issued a “final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems,” (per their website). The design of this final rule is to “protect workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements.”
What do these rules entail? Mostly, they aim to advance safety technology, diagnose and propagate industry-leading safety practices and continue to seek out cost-efficient worker-protection methods. These sweeping overhauls will affect a wide range of workers employed in various types of labor industries.
Additionally, from the OSHA website:
“Specifically, [the new regulation] updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I). OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.”

Employer Benefits

Every construction site is unique. These new regulations stress flexibility and adaptability. What works best for some sites may be critically unsuitable for other locations. Following this logic, these most recent updates allow for employers to choose the protection system that works best for their particular project. (In lieu of mandating one particular protection system for all job sites.) This practice has shown a trajectory of positive results since 1994.

Case Study

A 52-year old architect died after falling from an under-construction Midtown skyscraper this September. The man, an architect from New Jersey who was working on the project, fell from the 42nd floor (of 46 total) and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The building was located near W. 53rd St. and Sixth Avenue.

The accident occurred at around 2:15 in the afternoon.

How Slips & Trips Occur

Slips
Slips occur when an absence of friction / traction caused by wet, oily or otherwise hazard-filled terrain causes a worker / pedestrian to lose contact with the walking surface.

Trips
Hazards (outcroppings, debris, tools, uneven landscape, e.g.) are the likeliest culprits for trips. When a foot strikes a hazard, a worker / pedestrian is liable to trip.

Preventing Slips, Trips & Falls

So, now we know what causes slips, trips and falls. What can we do to prevent them? Here’s a comprehensive list of safety techniques employers, property-owners, overseers and site managers can use to maintain a safe environment:

  • The most fundamental principle of slip and trip prevention is “good housekeeping.” Spills must be cleaned immediately, and any residual slipperiness must be clearly marked. Construction debris must be continuously swept up and / or removed. Walkways must be freed of clutter. All pathways, in fact, should be clear and well-lit and flat. Managers need to take care of the basics first, before focusing on advanced techniques.
  • Workers themselves should take some responsibility for their own safety. To the workers out there: always walk slowly, watch where you step, and report any safety infractions immediately. Also, make wide turns at corners to avoid crashing into other workers making blind turns.
  • Do your part! Pick up any obstacles / litter you may come across and return them to their proper location / deposit them into a dumpster.
  • Site managers should outfit their employees with high-grip footwear. No one foot-grip is suitable for all situations, so it is up to the overseers to assess the situations and assign proper safety equipment accordingly.
  • Perform regular safety check-ups. Proper maintenance of handrails, banisters, etc. goes a long way in ensuring job site safety.
  • Look into abrasive / textured flooring, which can help augment the traction of potentially slick walking surfaces.

Kaplan Lawyers PC

If you or a loved one have sustained an injury at the workplace, it’s of paramount importance that you retain the counsel of New York’s preeminent workplace-injury law firm. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, our professional, knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys are ready and eager to help you win the compensation you deserve. As you recover from injury, we will fight tirelessly for your rights. Not sure where to turn? Schedule a free and easy consultation with Kaplan Lawyers PC today.