Improper fall protection has been the number one OSHA violation every year since 2011. Falls are also the leading cause of death for people working in the construction industry. In 2014, there were 874 total construction industry fatalities. Three hundred thirty-seven of those deaths were due to falls. Employers are required to maintain safe and secure fall protection in areas where workers are at risk of falls. Anytime people are working at a height of six feet or more, the company must provide workers with guardrails, nets, or some approved personal fall arrest system.
Many workplace falls are preventable
In 2009 there were 212,760 U.S. workers seriously injured in falls and 605 workers killed. Many of these work-related injuries and deaths could have been easily prevented if companies followed OSHA’s guidelines for fall protection. OSHA has industry-specific requirements to reduce risks of accidents and to minimize injuries if accidents do occur. Many fall injuries are slip and fall accidents that occur at ground level. Workers in every industry are at risk for this type of low-level fall. Ground level falls often occur due to neglected maintenance or ignored issues like slippery floors and loose handrails. A workers’ compensation attorney can advise injured workers of their rights and best legal course of action.
Construction industry fall protection
A key OSHA rule is that companies provide fall protection for people working at a height of six feet or more above a lower level and when employees are working on scaffolding at 10 feet or more. There are exceptions to this rule if the employer can prove that a fall protection system is not feasible in a given situation or that an OSHA guideline fall protection system will increase fall risks. In those situations, the company is still required to develop a fall protection plan and method of protecting workers specific to the situation. The construction industry is second only to agriculture for fatal injuries to workers younger than 18. Approximately 60 percent of construction work-related injuries happen in the worker’s first year of employment.
Proper fall protection training is crucial
In addition to guidelines for fall protection systems, OSHA requires proper training for employees. According to OSHA guidelines, all employees must be trained in correct fall protection selection, installation, use, and maintenance. Not providing adequate training can lead to serious accidents, even when fall protection systems are used.