Workplace Solutions Construction safety Fall protection

Netting needs in the construction industry

Why is safety netting a necessity on a construction site?

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Image: U.S. Netting Inc.

Responding is Nikkie Chambers, marketing representative, U.S. Netting Inc., Erie, PA.

Netting is everywhere. It can have fun and exciting uses, such as a cargo tunnel on a playground, or more serious applications, such as protecting fans at a baseball game. However, two of its most important duties lie in construction.

The No. 1 cause of death on a construction site is falling from an elevation, followed by being struck by objects. The good news is that netting can prevent these accidents from happening – and often is the best line of defense against both.

Fall safety is essential on a worksite because most construction workers will work at an elevation at some point in their careers, and the longer an individual works at height, the more comfortable he or she will become. These workers may become overconfident in their ability to execute a task safely and could start to ignore safety procedures – a recipe for disaster. If you’re not wearing your personal protective equipment or it fails to arrest you, you’re going to fall, and once you’re in the air, a safety net is your only hope to leave the site alive.

According to OSHA, employers must provide fall protection when their workers will be working 6 feet or more above a lower level and at all times when working near dangerous machines or equipment. Fall protection can include personal fall arrest systems, guardrails and netting. If your employees are working around openings in a floor or roof, protect them with hatch netting or guardrails. Unstable or weak roofs should have netting installed beneath, especially when dangerous equipment is present.

Netting is an important and vital aspect of fall safety because its absence will be fatal. If a worker lands in a fall safety net, that means all other means of protecting that employee from falling have failed. If not for the net, the individual(s) most likely would have suffered severe injuries or death. The effects of an unprotected fall can ripple for years and will be felt by more than just the employee and their loved ones.

When construction begins on a building in a busy place such as New York City, you sometimes will see the company “wrap” the building in a cocoon-like fashion. This is called debris netting, and it is designed to keep all debris in and prevent it from dropping to the street below. If any open space surrounds a construction site, debris netting can be installed at a lower level above where people may be walking or working. Sure, you might have on a hard hat, but that shouldn’t be your best line of defense against a chunk of concrete falling from seven stories up.

If a worksite is located in a city or crowded area, pedestrians tend to be the most at risk for being struck by debris. Falling hammers, wood, steel and concrete all have killed pedestrians, including children. As a result of these tragedies, families lost loved ones; construction companies faced fines, lawsuits and halt orders; and lives were changed forever.

Netting is beyond necessary on every worksite. It can protect employees from falling, it can protect workers and pedestrians from falling objects and debris, and, most importantly, it can save lives.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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