Best practices for reducing potentially deadly injuries year round, not just during OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down To Prevent Falls in Construction week
October 2020 | Construction
BY IVAN CASTAÑO AND JASON RAGSDALE
Deaths related to construction work accounted for 21.1% of all workplace fatalities in 2018.
Fatal and nonfatal injuries cost the construction industry an estimated $13 billion annually.
Six of the top 10 most cited OSHA standards in construction relate either directly or indirectly to fall prevention.
Each day, construction businesses face numerous hazards on the job site that threaten the health and safety of their workers. In fact, deaths related to construction work accounted for 21.1% of all workplace fatalities in 2018, making construction one of the most dangerous professions in the United States.1
While every contractor wants their employees to return home safely from the job site, incidents can and still do occur. To safeguard their workers and prevent potentially deadly injuries, employers have a duty to educate themselves — as well as their staff members — about the most common on-the-job risks. Of all the various construction hazards, falls consistently rank as the top contributor to worker injuries and fatalities.
Employees are a construction firm’s greatest asset, so taking steps to prevent falls can help businesses improve employee morale and also build a strong safety culture. This article will examine the cost of falls for construction firms, and common best practices that businesses should consider to prevent on-the-job injuries.
Falls account for about one-third of all fatalities in the construction industry, underscoring the importance of implementing clear fall prevention policies.2 But beyond troubling injury and fatality concerns, poor fall safety protocols can also be financially devastating for construction firms. Not only do fatal and nonfatal injuries cost the construction industry an estimated $13 billion annually, but there are also significant compliance fines for those who fail to protect their workers from fall hazards.3 Notably, six of the top 10 most cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards in construction relate either directly or indirectly to fall prevention.4
Furthermore, businesses that fail to protect their employees will not only face irreversible reputational harm, but they could lose out on projects. That’s because many project owners and general contractors have standards related to a business’s incident frequency and severity. Put simply, a poor incident record can impact a firm’s ability to secure work.
Falls have the potential to seriously injure employees whenever they work on elevated platforms, in areas with exposed edges, with machinery, near trenches, on ladders, on roofs and in other similar construction scenarios. To ensure safety on the job site, it’s critical that employers train employees, enforce safety protocols, and ensure that workers are using the right tools for the job. Let’s review some common best practices that construction firms should consider to prevent on-the-job injuries related to falls.
While some fall incidents are unavoidable, many of them can be prevented by taking a systematic approach to workplace safety and investing time and money into the process. In fact, there are some basic strategies that construction firms can use to keep their workers safe, including the following:
Above all, to build a strong safety culture, employers need to ensure that employees are trained on safety concerns and that they are regularly following any and all established policies outlines in the program. It’s one thing to create a fall protection program, but it’s another to enforce it consistently. In other words, a fall protection program should be more than a piece of paper; it should be ingrained in company culture and reflected by the behavior of both supervisors and general employees. To further promote worker buy-in, employers should distribute the program to employees and require them to sign a form acknowledging that they understand what’s expected of them.
In addition to all of the best practices listed above, businesses are encouraged to participate in OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down To Prevent Falls in Construction week. The timing of this annual event changes each year, but it always reinforces the importance of fall prevention and encourages employers to host safety talks, conduct equipment inspections, develop rescue plans and discuss job-specific hazards.
While the National Safety Stand-Down is just one week long, it’s a great time for businesses to refocus their fall prevention efforts. Just remember, workplace safety should be an ongoing, everyday priority — one that organizations constantly revisit to protect their employees long after awareness week ends.