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Preventing Construction Falls

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has a website devoted to preventing injuries and fatalities on construction sites.  The site also provides information about the incidence of the causes of construction accidents.

 For example, the site reports that falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. The leading causes of falls include unprotected sides, wall openings and floor holes; improper scaffold construction; unprotected protruding steel rebar; and improperly misused portable ladders.


How can these types of construction falls be prevented? According to the OSHA site, workers and employers alike can take steps to ensure the safety of the worksite, steps that include:

Openings: Guarding openings in walls, floors and sides with guardrails, safety nets systems and personal fall protection systems; covering new construction holes as soon as they are opened; surveying existing buildings for holes before beginning work; construct floor hole covers so they will support twice an employee’s weight.

Scaffolding: Constructing scaffolding according to the manufacturer’s instructions is the easiest way to insure the safety of the scaffold and prevent falls. Installing guardrails along open ends and sides, using personal fall arrest systems and providing safe access to scaffold platforms rather than climbing cross-bracing to access will also reduce falls.

Rebar: Protruding ends of rebar must be guarded with rebar caps or wooden troughs to prevent serious injury is someone falls on exposed rebar. Another way to protect falling workers from serious internal injuries is to bend rebar so that ends are not upright.  The first line of defense when working around rebar is to use a personal fall protection system to prevent falls in the first place.

Portable ladder misuse: Secure ladders properly. Side rails should extend three feet above the landing. Side rails at the top of the ladder should be secured to something rigid. Test to make sure that weight on the ladder will not cause it to move, and do not put more weight on a ladder than it is designed to support. Ensure that each rung, step rail, foot and lock is in good working order.

Workers and employers who make sure that these protective measures are implemented will be helping themselves and the industry at large to reduce the number of construction site falls.