According to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, 71 percent of all of the construction inspections done in Queens, NY between 2010 and 2012 ended in some type of violation. For a while now, it has been evident that construction workers and companies in Queens and throughout New York City are not minding all of the posted safety regulations. Many experts say that using safety equipment could decrease the number of accidents and cut down on deaths due to falls.
In New York State, construction workers make up around four percent of the working population, but they have 20 percent of the workplace accidents. While it may not be possible to eliminate all construction accidents, many New York City construction experts feel that injuries from falls could be discouraged if workers simply used the safety equipment they are given.
Falls Are Becoming A Problem
The Occupational Health and Safety Online Magazine indicates that falls are the number one source of injuries in the construction industry. Construction accidents and injuries from falls are so prevalent that they make up 36 percent of all workplace injuries throughout the United States.
To go along with these alarming statistics, OSHA indicates that the most common safety violation cited on construction sites comes from workers improperly using fall protection equipment, or failing to use fall protection at all. One reason the number of violations increases from year to year is because some contractors find it difficult to keep up with the changes in regulations. But in many cases, it is the lack of compliance by employees that triggers citations.
A Price For Companies To Pay
The American Society of Safety Engineers estimates that construction companies pay out nearly $500 for every insured worker in compensation payments every year, which comes to a total of around $40 billion. It is a staggering figure when you take into account that many of the accidents that result in compensation cases could have been prevented by using safety protection.
A Three-Part Solution
All of the construction industry safety experts agree that getting employees to wear fall protection equipment will reduce the number of accidents each year, and cut down on how much is paid out in worker’s compensation insurance claims. To help with the problem, the experts offer a three-part solution that includes:
- Finding ways to enforce safety laws and guidelines and make violating those guidelines detrimental to workers
- Design harnesses that are easier to wear and allow for a full range of motion while they are being worn
- Create more comprehensive and possibly universal fall safety training materials and make understanding these materials mandatory for all workers
Reason Why Workers Are Not Wearing Their Protection
Earlier we spoke about redesigning safety equipment to make it easier to wear, but safety equipment also needs to encourage workers to feel safe on the job as well. Some of the safety harnesses designed in previous years use a belt system that wrapped around the worker’s waist to offer protection. Unfortunately, those vests and belts would sometimes cause serious spinal injuries during seemingly insignificant falls. Workers were eventually forced to choose between the risk of falling or the risk of severing their spines. The choice, for many, was obvious.
Another issue with worker fall protection equipment is that the training to use the equipment has become routine and ineffective. Workers are asked to read a pamphlet, watch a video, and then sign a sheet saying they completed their training. The reality is that the training is completely ineffective, and most workers learn how to use their safety equipment on the job.
Enhancing The Attraction Of Safety Equipment
No worker heads out to a job with the intention of falling and becoming injured, but many workers are not inclined to use the protection they are given. In many cases, the issue is simply worker negligence when it comes to putting harnesses on for smaller jobs. Even a fall from a few feet can cause serious damage, but workers who have been working in high places for years will leave their harnesses behind when they are only a few feet off the ground.
The other issue with today’s safety equipment is that it is heavy, and it prevents workers the range of motion they need to do their jobs. In the summertime, those huge harnesses can make work even more difficult by making the worker feel hot in the midday sun.
If construction companies and industry experts are going to convince workers to wear their safety equipment to prevent injuries from falls, then they will need to work on the design, functionality, and training that goes along with the equipment. The threat of a fall may not be enough to get a worker to wear his harness, but a hefty fine and some unpaid days off may do the trick. Experts are willing to go that route if that is what it takes to protect workers from themselves.