Why Worksite Falls Happen

Derek Tokarz

Derek Tokarz

Certified in Safety Management Group's Training in Fall Protection

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Worksite falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 36.4% of construction deaths were direct results of falling from heights.

These falls can also have far-reaching effects on families, businesses and communities. Medical expenses, grief and stress can take a serious toll on those close to the injured worker, and employers lose a valuable member of their operation.

You can prevent falls with proper planning and implementation of a safety plan. Take a look at the most common causes of construction-related falls so you can determine the most effective solutions for your job site.

Spills, Hazards, and Maintenance

It only takes a little spill to initiate a slip and fall situation. If that spill is at height, it can become a disaster. Marking all wet areas and cleaning up spills of any sort is incredibly important. Falls are the number one cause of fatalities for construction workers in the U.S. Trips can also cause serious injury. Common hazards for slips, trips and falls include:

  • Wet floors and spills
  • Damaged or uneven walking surfaces
  • Tools or debris left scattered about
  • Poorly lit areas
  • Poor floor coverings and mats

Injuries due to slips and falls cost U.S. employers an average of $70 billion annually in medical bills and workers’ compensation. Extensive injuries can cost individual employers millions of dollars. Implementing better maintenance and housekeeping plans will reduce the risk of injuries due to these oversights.

Taking the time to complete a thorough walkthrough identifying problem areas in your store, warehouse or business location can be eye-opening. Use those insights to update your maintenance plan, retrain workers and complete renovations if needed.

Trips, Grips, and Breakthrough

Working at height on roofs presents more specialized hazards for workers. These include:

Trips

According to OSHA, a trip is any instance when you run into an object with your foot and get knocked off balance. Tripping on a roof – at any height – can spell disaster for workers. Any sort of roll or fall can spill someone off the roof and toward devastating injuries.

Common trip hazards are exposed nails, missteps and loose cords and tools. Taking time at the beginning of each workday to carefully inspect the site and remove risks is an important step you can take right away to prevent injuries. Additionally, regular removal of waste generated throughout the day can prevent debris from building up in walkways and becoming hazardous.

Poor Grips

Slipping on an industrial roof walkway or set of stairs can be very dangerous. Standardizing footwear requirements can help to prevent this sort of slip, as well as using proper grip tape or installing specialized walkways.

For example, installing a walkway with a high-grip surface can help to prevent falls and slips without obstructing your workspace. Make sure your chosen walkway is easy to install and is usable on multiple surfaces like bitumen, GRP, PVC and coated steel roofs.

Breakthroughs

Falling through a weak or overloaded roof can occur. Properly testing roof capacities and providing safe methods for traveling on a roof in need of repair is vital for this prevention.

Installing a designated walkway is a great way to keep your workers safe from falling off the roof. Use what you learned in your roof inspection to plan out where you will place your walkway. Then, make sure your workers use it to get from place to place.

You can also combine your walkway with a guardrail system to provide a safe grip for workers to hold onto in the event of an emergency. Some walkways come with built-in guardrails, while others may require you to purchase them separately. Keep this specification in mind when looking for ways to increase the safety of your operation.

Edge Awareness

If a worker doesn’t know how close they are to the roof’s edge or a skylight, they may be one step away from harm. A strong safety training program and regular employee recertification can help avoid this damage.

Even in low-traffic or low-risk areas, marking edges can save lives. A warning line system provides an eye-catching visual warning of hazards so employees will know to stand back.

You can also combine your warning systems with guardrails for an even more effective solution. Installing solid guardrails can prevent passive falls from happening, especially in areas with abnormal pitch or slip hazards.

Additionally, if your workplace does work at night or has poor lighting, installing light fixtures or providing wearable light sources can help workers gain new awareness of where they’re walking so they are more able to see edges. Awareness and identification of hazards are a couple of the easiest ways to prevent injury in the workplace.

Human Error

We’ve spent this article discussing the passive causes of worksite falls, but there’s also an active component — your workers. Unfortunately, the most dangerous threat to your workers’ health is their own neglect. It takes only one misstep, one moment of poor judgment or lax decision-making for a catastrophic injury to happen.

Risky behaviors, such as stepping backward while on a roof or rushing from point to point, are signs you may need to retrain your workers. After all, remaining aware of your position and surroundings is crucial to safe work at heights.

While good fall protection systems and other safety solutions offer some protection, combining them with disciplined expert work is the only way to reduce the number of these tragic injuries we see every year.

Standardized training is also necessary to remain compliant with OSHA regulations. When providing fall awareness training, ensure your trainer addresses proper use procedures for fall protection systems, identifying and minimizing fall hazards and maintaining safety equipment.

Trust FIXFAST USA for OSHA Compliant Safety Products

Combining proven safety solutions, expert implementation and an effective training program is the best way to keep your employees safe.

Schedule a free consultation with us today to learn more about how you can prevent slips and falls at your job site. We’ll make sure you get the maximum safety for minimum fuss.

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