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Preventing falls in construction

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Falls continue to plague the construction industry. According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in construction. Of the 991 construction worker deaths recorded in 2016, 370 resulted from falls to a lower level. In most cases, workers were not wearing their fall protection properly – if at all – or employers had not provided fall protection. However, in all cases, one thing is clear: The deaths were preventable.

To help reduce fall-related fatalities, OSHA advises employers to “Plan. Provide. Train.”

Plan. When planning a job that will require working from height, the employer is responsible for ensuring the work will be done safely. “When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site,” OSHA states.

Provide. Employers must provide fall protection and related equipment, such as ladders, scaffolds and safety gear, to employees working 6 feet or more above a lower level. “For roof work, if workers use personal fall arrest systems, provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor,” OSHA notes, adding that it’s imperative the system properly fits the worker and is regularly inspected.

Train. Every worker should be trained on the proper setup and safe use of fall protection equipment.

When working with ladders, workers should know to maintain three points of contact, keep the ladder on a level surface, secure the ladder by locking its metal braces and refrain from overreaching when standing on the rungs. When working on a scaffold, employees must know how to set up the scaffold, including how to install guardrails, ensure stable footing will be maintained, and level the scaffold, OSHA states. Additionally, a competent person should inspect the scaffold before use.

For roof work, employees should know whether their harness fits properly and to stay connected or tied off at all times. Workers should be able to check that their anchor points are safe, and that any openings are protected or covered.

For more information on safely working at height, visit osha.gov/stopfalls.

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