Falls are the single most common cause of fatalities on construction sites. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns falls caused 349 out of 874 fatalities on construction sites in 2014. Falls are also common in other industries as well. Falls can occur on the same level or on a different level, and in addition to causing fatalities are also a leading cause of spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.
Victims of falls in Pennsylvania should be entitled to make a workers' compensation claim in order to receive payment of medical bills. Disability can result, and workers should be paid temporary or permanent disability benefits when fall injuries result in wage loss. Unfortunately, recovery from falls is often difficult and the cost of treating fall injuries can be high. Prevention is far better than coping with injured workers, and employers should take all reasonable steps to prevent falls from happening.
Seven Steps to Prevent Falls from Occurring on Worksites
Safety BLR recently published an article detailing seven steps which should be taken in order to prevent falls from occurring on worksites. These steps include the following:
- Conducting an analysis of workplace hazards. Being proactive can help prevent falls before they happen. A careful assessment should be made to identify where falls are likely to occur. Hazards should be eliminated whenever possible, before a regulator visits or before a worker trips. Supervisory staff and workers should all be involved in the interactive workplace hazard assessment, with the goal of analyzing the risks in light of job requirements.
- Engineering in order to remove the hazard. Once risks are identified, they can be engineered out of existence whenever possible. This could involve implementing different work processes and methods which reduce exposure to fall hazards. It could also involve redesigning equipment or changing work settings. For example, one possible suggestion is the installation of a remote floor-level readout to reduce the need for workers to climb to higher elevations in order to gather information about systems in the workplace.
- Preplanning to achieve success. It is easier and more likely to be effective if fall protection is addressed from the earliest stages of designing work settings or work processes. When a worksite is being designed, owners and contractors should work with safety professionals, architects, and designers to evaluate potential fall exposure during each of the different phases of construction. Bidding contractors should also attend meetings before submitting bids where job-specific fall protection processes are discussed.
- Assessing all rescue contingencies. Emergency situations should be considered and site-specific rescue plans should be developed. The plans should include contact information, protocols for communicating emergencies, notification processes and reporting protocols, processes for securing medical assistance, and details on man baskets and other self-rescue devices.
- Conducting training for all members of the staff: Everyone visiting the job site should undergo training, which is developed and delivered by someone who is qualified.
- Establishing a plan for prevention of falls which emphasizes accountability. Programs designed to prevent falls are much more likely to be effective if it is clear who is responsible for different elements of the plan.
- Inspecting job sites and monitoring fall prevention programs. The key is to make sure processes are followed.
These basic steps can help keep employees safe and help reduce fall risks in construction.