According to EHS Today, there were 20,498 deaths on the job in the construction industry from 1992 to 2009. It is estimated that 6,591 of those deaths were due to falls from heights. You can break it down further and to find out that 2,163 of those fatalities occurred in the roofing industry.
The workers most at risk for falls are residential roofers and iron workers, and those two groups should be the focal point of fall protection efforts and safety rules. It was also discovered that foreign construction workers are more likely to fall than those that were born in this country. Is it a language barrier that causes problems with worker safety, or is it the lack of fall protection offered by construction companies?
Who Is To Blame For A Lack Of Fall Protection?
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has noted that there were more citations written for not adhering to rules regarding fall safety than any other issue in 2013. This means that falls from heights are one of the most common types of construction accidents. Additionally, they are also the most common type of safety violations committed by workers and companies.
In addition, the other issue associated with a lack of safety is the fact that falls are reported to be the number one source of injuries in the construction industry. Furthermore, construction accidents and injuries from these accidents make up 36 percent of all workplace injuries in the United States. These statistics alone are enough to ensure that both construction companies and workers take safety protection more seriously.
Sharing The Blame
The blame for not following the laws regarding fall protection can be shared by workers and companies. Workers are notorious for not wearing their safety gear because they say that it gets in the way of doing their jobs. In the summer, workers complain that the gear is too hot and restricts their movement.
For companies, fall protection laws are consistently the most violated laws in the country. Companies either do not want to spend the money on the necessary gear, or they fail to see the real dangers associated with falls until someone finally gets hurt. It is estimated that 80 percent of the construction accidents associated with falls are committed by non-union companies. This fact could underline one of the most common reasons for deaths by falls in the construction industry, which is a lack of proper training.
Solving The Problem
With one-third of all construction deaths occurring as the result of falls, it is obvious that there is an issue with workers not wearing fall protection and companies not following safety rules. Worker safety should be a top priority on every job site. Unfortunately, construction accidents still happen.
The solution to the problem is a cooperative effort by companies and workers. Cooperative efforts need to be implemented in order to make using fall protection equipment a priority. To do that, there are three areas where workers and companies should concentrate their efforts.
Three Areas To Focus On For Safety
OSHA certified safety training should be a part of every company’s working culture. A construction company should also know its working population. By knowing where their employees come from, companies should also offer training in languages that every worker will understand. These trainings should be mandatory, and there should be a worker test conducted to make sure the information was retained.
Hands-on training for safety equipment should also be part of any construction company’s training regimen. The manufacturers of safety equipment are usually available to perform demonstrations that could save worker’s lives. One of the most effective ways to get workers to use fall protection equipment is to show them how to use it, and then make the equipment readily available.
Complying with safety equipment laws and regulations is one of the biggest areas of neglect for workers and companies. OSHA makes it mandatory that every job site is cleared of any known fall hazards. It is also the federal law that employers must provide the necessary fall protection equipment to each and every employee as needed. The number of recurring safety violations due to a lack of the proper safety equipment would indicate that not every employer is following these OSHA laws.
A big problem with getting every company and worker to comply with fall protection equipment laws is the lack of OSHA inspectors available. Instead of saving money by investing in the proper safety equipment, companies violate the laws until they are caught by safety inspectors. Putting the focus on not getting caught instead of on worker safety is a big reason why fall protection equipment is not used correctly.
As already mentioned, inspections are an issue that has to be solved in order to protect workers. The Department of Buildings in New York City has attempted to tackle this problem head-on by hiring more inspectors, but it takes time to get new inspectors in place. With 80 percent of the construction accidents in New York City occurring with non-union companies, those new inspectors will come in handy in preventing future injuries.
OSHA has the authority to hand out fines if it sees violations, but persistent budget cuts have prevented OSHA from having the field staff it needs to get the job done. If companies and workers would put the emphasis on safety, then the lack of inspectors would not create as much of an issue. But as long as the rules are there to be manipulated, inspectors will be essential to helping solve the problem.
OSHA recognizes that falls from any height can be dangerous to workers. There are regulations in place that require
that fall protection equipment is used for heights as low as four feet in some areas, and as high as eight feet in others. However, OSHA requires fall protection equipment to be worn at all times when working with dangerous or heavy machinery.
Many of the fall protection equipment laws sound like common sense, yet they continue to go unheeded by workers and companies. With a cooperative effort and the introduction of new safety technology, companies and workers can create ways to utilize safety equipment properly. Along with saving lives, companies can also look to benefit in adhering to correct fall safety use by generating a profit.
Construction workers need to be much more vigilant with the use of fall protection equipment because at the end of
it all they have much more to lose than an employer who will get cited. Each year, construction workers lose their lives because they simply did not have the proper fall safety equipment. Whether it is workers refusing to wear their fall protection equipment or companies refusing to supply it, the lack of regard for the importance of fall protection equipment in the construction industry is a problem that refuses to go away.
Workplace Safety Is A Right
Considering how dangerous construction work is, it is important for construction workers to know that they have a right to a safe workplace. Part of having a safe workplace is working with the correct fall safety equipment and with an employer who ensures this type of safety. If a fall accident occurs that was due to there being an unsafe workplace, a construction worker needs to know that they have the right to take legal action. Using proper fall protection equipment is another way of ensuring a safe workplace for construction workers.