Fall Protection Is Serious Business

As the country continues its economic recovery and construction businesses enter their peak season, we should be reminded  that construction is the deadliest industry in the country. Falls are consistently the top cause of fatalities in the construction industry, accounting for 269 fatalities in the US in 2012 alone. And for the third year in a row, OSHA’s Fall Protection standard was the agency’s most frequently cited standard.

In addition to the horrific injuries and deaths falls cause, OSHA estimates that each fall from an elevated position in construction (both fatal and nonfatal) costs between $50,000 and $106,000. These costs include: citations, work stoppage, lost wages, workers compensation, and medical costs. With fatal falls at California construction sites seeing a peak this summer, Cal/OSHA has deployed investigators to construction sites throughout the state “to determine whether adequate measures have been taken to identify safety hazards and prevent injury.”

How Can Falls Be Prevented?

In addition to proper education and equipment, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tackles this issue with a new publication that urges fall hazards are addressed during the design stages of a project (Prevention through Design) not just during construction or work. According to NIOSH, the recommended hierarchy of controls for fall protection is as follows:

– This can be done by either adopting a building design involving a single level at grade rather than multiple levels at elevations or by using parapet walls, permanent guardrails, and other features to separate workers from fall hazards.

– Provide a fall restraint system. This involves securing the worker via an anchor point, connector, lanyard, and body harness to prevent the worker from reaching the fall hazard.

– Install a fall arrest system. This involves using an anchor point, connectors, lanyards, and body harnesses, but allows exposure to the fall hazard and is designed to stop a fall after it has begun.

Working from heights is inherently dangerous, but protecting workers from falls is feasible and effective. Don’t let your company become another statistic!

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