In 2001 alone, there were 481,400 non-fatal injuries and 1,225 fatal injuries in the construction industry in the United States. Although construction only comprises about 6% of American industry, the industry experiences approximately 20% of work-related fatalities.
Although the hazards and risks of construction are generally understood, preventable accidents on construction sites continue to occur.
Fall Injuries on Construction Sites
Causes of injury in the construction industry often include falls from heights, excavation accidents, machine accidents, and being hit by falling objects. There are also motor vehicle collisions and electrocutions. Other health hazards reside in toxic materials encountered in construction, and the full extent of the health hazard may not be realized until years later. These materials include asbestos and solvents.
However, falling from heights is the leading cause of injury. OSHA recommends fall protection in many areas and surrounding many activities, including ramps, runways, excavations, hoist areas, work on unprotected sides and edges, wall openings, residential construction and many other instances.
Fall protection in the form of guardrail systems, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems and positioning devices or warning lines should be provided wherever a fall might result in an injury.
The height limit where fall protection is required is not defined. It is any height that may result in injury from a fall. Protection is also required when the employee is at risk of falling onto dangerous equipment.
Guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning device systems, and warning line systems can provide fall protection. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that workers understand the risks and the role of safety equipment in prevention of injury. All workers should observe proper workplace rules and should understand the use of fall prevention equipment.
OSHA has a fall prevention campaign, recognizing that falls are the leading case of construction site injury. Plan, Provide, and Train are the bywords of the campaign, and the focus is on falls from ladders and scaffolding.
Planning includes recognizing the necessity to provide safety equipment necessary to protect workers, and including that safety equipment in the estimate of the job cost. When construction begins, all necessary safety equipment should be available at the site.
Workers at heights of six feet or more are at risk of injury or death. Different ladders, scaffolds and other safety gear, including personal fall arrest systems, should be utilized for work at heights, including roof work.
Training should be thorough, and each worker should understand both the function and the way to correctly utilize each piece of equipment required for safety. OSHA provides multiple handbooks and learning guides in an effort to improve construction industry safety rates.
Areas where falls may occur unexpectedly should be well marked with warning signs. Employers should take all possible precautions to prevent the many unnecessary accidents and deaths. If you should have a fall from a height on a construction job, you may have long-term disability and continuing medical bills, in addition to lost wages. You should see a competent legal professional, such as a construction injury attorney, to evaluate your case for the possibility of negligence on the part of your employer. Call Passen Law Group at 312-527-4500 for a Free Case Evaluation.