May is a versatile month that sees national celebrations of mothers and veterans. It also designates a few days as a chance to highlight the dangers of falls to those that work in one of America’s most important industries — construction. Happening the first week of the month, National Safety Stand-Down is an opportune time to focus on fall hazards, especially given the fact that so many falls end in death. Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reached thousands of companies and more than 2.5 million workers with the Stand-Down.
The “Fatal Four”?
By their very nature, most construction jobs are risky occupations. One in five worker deaths in 2014 was in this line of work. Construction sites are often constantly changing environments teeming with heavy machinery, vehicles, noise, electricity, tools, uneven ground, scaffolding, and countless other ways to get hurt. Given that kind of hectic atmosphere, falling may not seem like a frequent peril. However, it is one of the most common causes of construction fatalities. According to OSHA, the top four construction hazards are falls, accidents where a person is struck by an object, accidents where a person is caught in or between a trench/excavation, and electrocutions.
How Often Do Worker Injuries Happen?
Adding in workers from other industries, a total of 660 people lost their lives in falls at work from various heights, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 545 cases where the height of the fall was known, nearly two out of every three were falls from 20 feet or less. Despite these alarming rates of fatalities and serious injuries (see: worker, the absence of proper fall protection is the violation cited most frequently by OSHA inspectors. Working from heights should not be taken for granted.
Preventing fall injuries and fatalities in every workplace is a worthy goal. Suggestions from OSHA include:
- Wear a properly fitting harness, and be sure to always stay connected when working from heights. Also, use guardrails or lifelines, and don’t work around unprotected openings or skylights.
- Inspect equipment each time before use, especially ladders and fall-protection equipment.
- Choose the right ladder for the job, secure it and maintain three points of contact with it.
- When using ladders, don’t place them on unlevel ground or on top of a scaffold, and don’t overreach.
- Don’t stand on scaffolding guardrails or climb cross-braces.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. When they fail to so, they can be held responsible for resulting injuries and wrongful deaths. Depending on the circumstances, there may be grounds for a legal cause of action. If you are trying to put your life back together after a fall at work, if you have lost a loved one in fatal workplace fall, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. We have over 50 years of experience helping people and we can help you. Based in Macon, we proudly serve communities throughout Georgia. Contact us by calling (478) 742-3381 or by filling out our online form.