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Construction Safety

Accidental Fall Statistics

The Construction Industry has the highest number of deaths of any industrial category and the number one cause of on the job deaths in construction is falling.

Roughly 20 percent of workplace fatalities in 2015 were in construction. Of those construction workplace deaths, over 38 percent were from falls according to OSHA:

Falls — 364 out of 937 total deaths in construction in CY 2015 (38.8%)

OSHA takes fall protection very seriously and cites the following list of the Top Ten OSHA Violations:

The following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards by Federal OSHA in fiscal year 2016 (October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016):

1. Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

2. Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

3. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

4. Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

5. Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

6. Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

7. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

8. Machinery and Machine Guarding, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

9. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

10. Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]

2. Falls in Residential Construction

Falls account for almost 40 percent of all deaths in the construction industry. Workplace deaths from falls are almost always preventable. Given that workplace deaths from falls in other countries is dramatically lower, it is clear that workplace safety in the United States lags behind the major industrial countries. The US was 19th among industrialized nations for workplace deaths behind Greece and Iceland on per capita basis.

(See https://sites.google.com/site/ryoichihoriguchi/home/occupational_fatality_by_county )

The US had slightly higher than 5% of its workforce of over 131 million workers suffered workplace death. Compare Great Britain with .8% - less than 1 percent-of their workers suffered an on the job fatality.

Falls will usually be covered by workers’ compensation insurance but that does not prevent you from pursuing other parties that may be responsible. Additionally, there may be facts to support a suit directly against the employer for wrongful death which is in addition to any workers compensation benefits you may have received.

3. FALLS IN RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION

Residential construction occurs all over Texas every day in vigorous form. It is part of what drives our economy. Yet, residential construction is a leading source of on the job injuries with falls being the most frequent occurrence of death at the workplace.

Workplace falls are divided into two categories:

  • Elevated Falls
  • Same Level Falls

65% of fall-related injuries occur as a result of falls on the same level.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

We’ve all seen construction workers on homes being built 25 feet or more in the air and no one is tied off or secured to the roof at all. But OSHA has a standard for safety at elevations. It is probably a lot lower than you imagined.

Falls that occur on the same level such as a tripping incident can still be fatal even without elevation. Anytime the human skull makes contact with a hard surface like concrete and is accelerating or falling fast, the risk of serious injury is great. Workers at residential construction sites typically carry materials and tools in their hands preventing them from breaking falls. Even a fall on the same level can be fatal. In our next blog, we will discuss the OSHA safety standard for Residential Construction relating to elevations.

4. Do you know what height OSHA requires fall protection?

12 feet? 20 feet? 30 feet? Try lower. Much lower. Osha requires fall protection in Residential Construction at 6 feet. That is S-I-X (6) feet! What does “fall protection” mean? Fall protection means guardrails, safety nets or a personal fall arrest system. And what is a personal fall arrest system? A more common term is being “tied off” or connected by a safety belt on the worker by a safety strap to a secure part of the structure so that any fall is caught by the strap.

In other words, being “tied off” is required absent guardrails or safety nets whenever a residential construction worker is working at a height or elevation of 6 feet or more.

See: "Residential construction." Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502. FR 1926.502.

But realistically, we have all seen residential construction workers on roof tops and high on houses being framed without any security, tie off or other means of preventing a fall. A fall from a rooftop at a home being built can be fatal or cause serious long term damage to limbs as well as permanent brain damage.

5. WORKPLACE FALL SAFETY STANDARDS

Do you know the height OSHA requires fall protection on the job?

The answer is:

  • 4 feet for General Industry
  • 5 feet in Maritime
  • 6 feet in Construction

Fall protection on the job is:

  • Guardrails
  • Safety nets
  • Fall Arrest System or “Tie-ing off”

“A worker is at risk any time they are working at a height of four feet or more. OSHA generally requires that fall protection be provided for an employee working at a height of four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime and six feet in construction.” OSHA’s Focus Four Mitigating Jobsite Hazards, Pete Rice, CSP, CIH, REHS. ClickSafety.com

What is the most common fall injury in construction? Roofs. Roughly one-third of all fatal falls in construction were from roofs from 1992 to 2005.

What is the second most common cause of fatal falls in Construction? Scaffolding. About 18 percent. Followed closely by ladders with falls from girders or steel after that at 8 percent.

“Nearly half (48 percent) of all fatal falls in private industry involve construction workers. In the period between 1992 and 2005, about one-third of the fatal falls in construction were from roofs, 18 percent were from scaffolding or staging, 16 percent were from ladders, and 8 percent were from girders or structural steel. The other 25 percent of fatal falls includes falls through existing floor openings, from nonmoving vehicles, from aerial lifts, etc.”OSHA’s Focus Four Mitigating Jobsite Hazards, Pete Rice, CSP, CIH, REHS. ClickSafety.com

"Residential construction." Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

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