In 2015, OSHA identified falls to be the leading cause of death in the construction industry, with 937 (21.4%) of the total 4,836 fatalities reported. That’s a huge number! Scaffolds and ladders in particular must to be addressed by employers for safety concerns since they are a high priority item for enforcement officials.
Over the last few years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) have worked very closely to raise the awareness about common fall hazards at construction sites. The biggest issues to address concerns how falls from ladders, scaffolds and other platforms can be avoided. Despite recommendations and increased enforcement from OSHA, as of 2016, fall protection tops the list of the most violated OSHA standards.
This presents the question: Is a fall-free workplace possible for construction sites? If so, how?
While it’s hard to accomplish, any disciplined and well-trained organization should be able to thoroughly check and apply their safety programs and precautionary measures across their site. Employers must also always plan ahead whenever working on heights in order to get the processes right as well as secure the necessary equipment for the job.
Proper training for workers and supervisors
Every person on the site should know their job, priorities, and have a clear communication system. The workers must also be trained on the proper set-up and handling of the equipment they’ll be using on the job. As part of the NIOSH-NORA collaboration, a ladder safety app has been released for mobile devices in order to help improve ladder safety. The app features an inclination indicator which will assist the user in setting up an extension ladder with the ideal 75.5 degree angle.
The NIOSH Division of Safety Research has thoroughly tested and patented the concept of the app’s inclination indicator. By comparing the existing ladder positioning methods to that of the app, experts found an improvement in both the accuracy and efficiency for ladder positioning using the inclinator. Additionally, the mobile app contains useful data regarding the safe use of ladders and it accessories.
Aside from having the right equipment on hand, the operator should have a fall protection system set up for employees who will be working six feet or more above lower levels since they are at risk for suffering serious or fatal injuries. All the safety gear must meet the standards set by OSHA, including any the additional guidelines provided by the local or state authorities.
The effective reduction of fall injuries and casualties in the construction industry will require a combined and consistent effort from regulators, operators, and employees. In the US alone, around $70 billion is spent on workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with fall incidents in the workplace. With that in mind, it now makes more sense for businesses to look into the prospect of having or training their own safety team, who will continuously monitor the work environment, educate the workforce, and ultimately lead the business into a long-term solution for fall prevention and other workplace hazards.