Construction work is widely known as a dangerous profession. Most associate the risks of construction work with people laboring at great heights. Few people recognize this reality: As many as 40% of fatal construction falls happen at 15 feet or lower. In fact, more than 5% of fatal construction falls happen at 6 feet or lower. Falls from lower heights can still have steep consequences.
These statistics surprise many people. 6 Feet? You can catch yourself with ease after falling from a mere 6 feet, can’t you? Well think about what catching yourself while falling really entails. The average person’s reaction time in the best of circumstances is one-half a second – – often much slower. Many experts will offer opinions that reaction time is higher but we will use the conservative half-second for illustrative purposes. In that half-second time period a person falls 4 feet. As you are falling, science kicks in. Gravity pulls you down and your speed quickly Increases as you descend. That means your impact force increases too. And, once you start falling, you will stop only when you hit a lower surface. Still think you can catch yourself? A person who weighs about 200 pounds and falls just 6 feet will hit the ground with almost 10,000 pounds of force. Think about that – – – 10,000 pounds! If you try and catch yourself under those circumstances, what are the chances you won’t seriously injure yourself? They aren’t very good. Obviously the force of the impact increases exponentially when you are falling from a greater height. Still, too many skeptics dismiss the force a person’s body endures when falling from 6 feet or less. They also are cynical when a person claims they could not catch themselves or safely break their fall. The people harboring these opinions are, frankly, naïve. These misperceptions lead to employers and contractors acting lackadaisically when it comes to safety for workers that are laboring at lower heights, a mistake which leads to serious consequences.
The focus should be on fall protection and prevention. To accomplish both, there should be a comprehensive plan at every jobsite to make sure workers have the safest opportunity to complete their assignments. Planning ahead to get the job done the right way and the safest way is critical. Making sure the right equipment is provided is essential. Training all employees to use the equipment the right way and to work in a safe manner will go a long way. Workers should be provided harnesses, when appropriate, and instructed to use them and stay connected whenever possible. The harness should fit because an ill-fitting harness is dangerous. Guardrails and lifelines should be used when appropriate. A guardrail is generally required when workers are exposed to falls over six feet. A guardrail must be 42 inches high and have a mid-rail. Secure attachment points must be available for lifelines and body harnesses when a safe guardrail is not being used. Communication is as important as anything. An atmosphere where workers are comfortable bringing safety issues to the attention of their supervisors is elusive. Still, if it is present, it will save lives. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, yet, if followed, injuries and fatalities would be reduced significantly.
Block O’Toole & Murphy is a Construction Accident Law Firm in New York City, handling construction accident and serious personal injury cases throughout New York State. This team of committed trial lawyers have represented many construction workers who have been injured on the job, many from falls. They have experience in presenting compelling cases for workers who have fallen from great heights and those that are 15 feet or less. They have recovered more than $800,000,000 in verdicts and settlements for their injured clients. To learn more about the firm and its talented lawyers, look at the firm websitewww.blockotoole.com. For a free consultation, you may contact them at 212-736-5300.