Falls from height (FFH) are the leading causes of serious and fatal injuries for construction workers. Almost all of these injuries and fatalities were preventable. There are many different factors that increase the risk of FFH injuries. Getting a understanding of these issues is key to preventing FFH injuries. As a result of identifying the types of hazards and learning how to safely address these hazards on your current jobs will allow you to get lower rates on General Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation Insurance.
Obtaining an understanding of these issues involved with FFH injuries will allow you to operate your business with greater efficiency. By preventing these accidents, your employee morale will be greater. You will protect your business from costly lawsuits. Finally, the amount you pay for your business insurance, especially workers compensation will be significantly lower than your competitors who do not follow these safety guidelines. The upside to all of this is that you should be able to offer your customers a lower price than your competitors thereby allowing you to successfully bid and win more jobs.
In this report, we examine the causes involved in FFH accidents. We will also explore a variety of ways to prevent FFH Injuries. As the construction industry has grown in the last few decades so has the numbers of workers injured or killed in FFH accidents. Even with other improvements in worker safety and stricter industry regulations, these injuries continue you to increase at an alarming rate. To put some numbers to this statement FFH are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. An average of 362 fatal falls occurred each year from 1995 to 1999 as stated before these rates are on the rise.
Plan. Provide. Train
To help reduce fall-related fatalities, OSHA advises employers to “Plan. Provide. Train.”
- Plan. When performing a job that will require working from a height, its the responsibility of the employer that the job is performed safely. These types of jobs are generally more expensive as the General Liability Insurance an Workers Compensation are significantly higher as compared to other types of risks. The costs to cover this type of work needs to include cost of additional safety precautions. According to current OSHA Guidelines “When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site.”
- Provide. Just as a skilled carpenter is useless without the proper tools. The same applies to worker safety. Employers must provide the proper tools and equipment for their employees to perform their jobs safely. OSHA requires that workers who are six feet or more above lower levels be provided fall protection. This includes the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear. Just providing the equipment is not enough. It is imperative the system properly fits the worker, the worker knows how to properly operate the system and is regularly inspected to ensure it is functioning properly.
- Train. Every worker needs to be educated on the correct setup and use of fall protection equipment. All employees who work on a scaffold must be trained by a person qualified to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold used and to understand the procedures to control and minimize those hazards. Additionally, a competent person should inspect the scaffold before use. For roof work, employees should know whether their harness fits properly and to stay connected or tied off at all times. Workers should be able to check that their anchor points are safe and secure. Also, any openings are protected or covered.
When working with ladders, workers should;
1. Know how to maintain three points of contact,
2. Keep the ladder on a Smooth, secure and level surface,
3. Secure the ladder by locking its braces and
4. Not attempting to overreach when standing on the rungs.
Top 4 hazards that cause FFH injuries
The following hazards cause the most fall-related injuries:
1. Unprotected Sides, Wall Openings, and Floor Holes.
These items are extremely dangerous. Guardrails must be placed around the hazard area. There are very specific and technical requirements concerning the placement of guard rail systems.
Where workers on a construction site are exposed to vertical drops of 6 feet or more, OSHA requires that employers provide fall protection in one of three ways before work begins:
- Placing guardrails around the hazard area.
- Deploying safety nets.
- Providing personal fall arrest systems for each employee and ensuring that each employee is properly trained in their use and the device is properly fitted to the individual.
2. Improper Scaffold Construction
- Construct all scaffolds according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Install guardrail systems along all open sides and ends of platforms.
- Use at least one of the following for scaffolds more than 10 feet above a lower level:
a. Guardrail Systems
b. Personal Fall Arrest Systems
- Provide safe access to scaffold platforms
- Do not use climb cross-bracing as a means of access.
3. Unguarded Protruding Steel Rebars
Unguarded protruding steel reinforcing bars are hazardous. Even if you just stumble onto an unguarded rebar you can impale yourself, resulting in serious internal injuries or death.
How Do I Avoid Hazards?
- Guard all protruding ends of steel rebar with rebar caps or wooden troughs, The OSHA Standard requires that rebar “be guarded to eliminate the hazard of impalement.” Not all guards provide that level of protection. In some circumstances, the force of a fall can cause rebar to push clear through a plastic cap and still impale a worker, or the worker can be impaled by the rebar and the cap together. Only rebar caps designed to provide impalement protection, such as those containing steel reinforcement, should be used. or
- Bend rebar so exposed ends are no longer upright.
- When employees are working at any height above exposed rebar, fall protection/prevention is the first line of defense against impalement.
4. Misuse of Portable Ladders
You risk falling if portable ladders are not safely positioned each time they are used. While you are on a ladder, it may move and slip from its supports. You can also lose your balance while getting on or off an unsteady ladder. Falls from ladders can cause injuries ranging from sprains to death. To reduce the risk of these hazards:
- Position portable ladders so the side rails extend at least 3 feet above the landing.
- Secure side rails at the top to a rigid support and use a grab device when a three-foot extension is not possible.
- Make sure that the weight on the ladder will not cause it to slip off its support.
- Before each use, inspect ladders for cracked or broken parts such as rungs, steps, side rails, feet and locking components.
- Do not apply more weight on the ladder than it is designed to support.
- Use only ladders that comply with OSHA design standards [29 CFR 1926.1053(a)(1)].
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT FFH
It is abundantly clear as stated above the FFH injuries are clearly avoidable in almost all circumstances.
With proper planning upon starting a project that requires employees working from a height the amount of mishaps will decrease. Finally ensuring that your employees are given the appropriate safety equipment and given the necessary training and instruction on how to properly use the equipment FFH accidents should be greatly reduced.
By following these straight forward guidelines you will be able to operate your business in a more efficient manner. This will reduce the amount of premium yo pay for your General Liability insurance and more importantly greatly reduce the amount of premium you will pay on your worker’s compensation insurance. As a result of operating in this manner, you should be able to offer your clients lower prices than your competitors who fail to follow these guidelines.