Fatal Falls in the Construction Workplace
November 13, 2020
In 2018, 5,250 workers in the United States died on the job according to OSHA.
Of those 5,250 deaths, 1,008 or almost 20% were in construction.
Of those 1,008 construction deaths 338 were as a result of a fall.
Thats more than 1/3 of all construction related fatalities.
OSHA Standards Violations
Do you know the most cited OSHA standards violation in 2019?
Fall protection in the construction industry.
The third most cited in 2019?
Scaffolding in the construction industry.
Ladders in the construction industry.
Fall protection training requirements.
Are you beginning to notice a theme?
Falls are one of the most serious risks faced by those in the construction sector.
Fall protection is often not properly used, or not used at all.
There is widespread incorrect use of scaffolding.
Ladders are very dangerous, this one I'm assuming you already knew.
Finally, and rather obviously, required fall protection training is inadequate and/or not being completed.
What needs to change?
Working at heights will always be inherently dangerous and there will unfortunately continue to be tragic accidents as a result of such work. However such work is essential to keep society humming along and so it must be made as safe as is reasonably possible.
The first step is education.
Fall protection/working at heights training is in many American and Canadian regions, woefully lacking. I have taken the course, and as anyone, literally anyone who has taken the course will tell you, it is a farcical joke. The closest I got to working at height in that course was when I walked down the stairs for lunch. The instructor handed out our certification cards before we even completed our self marked tests. If we want to reduce the number of injuries and deaths as a result of falls in the workplace, instructors are going to have to start failing people until they pay attention and figure it out.
The second step is enforcement.
Employers need to take the initiative and enforce OSHA guidelines. Not only will this save them money in the form of foregone fines, it will reduce the number of tragic falls we see on construction sites. Whats that? Tragic falls can cost money too? Well there you go, double whammy.
The third step is technology.
Construction as an industry is typically slow to adopt new trends. While it is important to know what you do and do what you do well it is equally important to figure out what you don't know so you can do what you do well exceptionally.
Innovation & Construction?
There are many new and innovative construction products which place safety at the forefront. We see them more frequently used across the pond by our European friends. These are not the clunky hard-to-use products we've become so accustomed to associating with safety in North America. There are absolutely no sacrifices or tradeoffs, in many cases its safer and better. We may beat the Europeans on the ice, usually at least, but they are beating us handily when it comes to ushering their construction industry into the 21st century.
Its high time we catch up, the delta is measured in human lives.