Falls on Construction Sites: A Preventable Tragedy

Falling on a construction site can result in serious injuries, the inability to work, and even death. Sadly, many of these events are highly preventable. When job sites are properly staged, and when workers are properly equipped and trained, these accidents and others like them can be easily avoided. Whether working on scaffolding or on other elevated surfaces, having an effective and multi-pronged fall prevention plan is essential.

Elements of a Solid Fall Prevention Plan

Fall-related accidents aren’t just harmful to employees. They can also be detrimental to businesses by lowering morale, derailing production, driving insurance costs up, and causing asset damages among other things. Thus, it is always in the best interests of construction companies to have detailed fall construction plans in place. These plans should be drafted individually to reflect the unique challenges of each job site and work crew, and the different elevations and lifting equipment that team members will be using. An onsite supervisor should be placed in charge of making sure that all parties and all aspects of the site adhere to this plan. A good fall prevention plan will include:

  • Specifications for properly staging elevated work surfaces and equipment
  • Rules pertaining to response and follow-up to equipment damages including scaffolding and other elevated platforms
  • Minimum requirements for employee safety training
  • A detailed checklist for daily walk-throughs and pre-work inspections
  • Strategies for ensuring that all employees are wearing the proper fall prevention gear at all times
  • Signage for labeling high-risk areas
  • In-depth descriptions of all fall prevention equipment that are to be used in specific areas

Along with safety signage, lists of fall prevention gear should also be posted in visible areas so that all employees are completely aware of what the safety expectations are.

Inspecting Fall Prevention Gear and General PPE

Even in instances in which employees are required to secure certain forms of personal protective equipment (PPE) or fall protection gear themselves, it is the job of the site supervisor to make sure that these items are on whenever team members are working at heights above six feet. When taking tours of the job site, supervisors should make sure that this gear is being worn and used correctly, and that it’s in optimum condition. All Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS) should be free of:

  • Loose, frayed or broken strands
  • Bent, rusted or warped buckles
  • D-wings, hooks, or other components that are corroded or misshapen

After a person’s PFAS has been used to actually arrest a fall, it should be inspected for signs of damage. If any event causes any indication of wear, this gear should be retired and replaced.

The Importance of Adequate Training

Given that falls are a common construction site injury, one of the most effective ways to prevent job site accidents is by making sure that all employees are properly trained for working safely at elevated heights. This can prove challenging when multiple contractors are working on a single job. However, if the construction manager or overall site manager handles training verifications rather than leaving this in the hands of individual companies, everyone is assured of having the same basic safety knowledge.

In addition to learning about the importance of PFAS and other fall prevention gear, every team member working at elevated heights should have the ability to identify scaffolding and other equipment that’s been damaged or improperly staged. When an elevated surface is subjected to any impact event, employees should also know to abandon it until its been inspected and cleared as safe. When all team members are equally well-trained, the risks of having someone make a life-altering or life-ending mistake is greatly minimized.

Why Construction Managers Must Conduct Daily Walk-Throughs

With people working to affect new changes on construction sites each and every day, new considerations and new hazards are guaranteed to arise. Daily walk-throughs ensure that every elevated area has the proper signage, that scaffolding is properly set up, and that no elevated surfaces have been damaged in ways that make them unfit for use. This is also an opportunity to ensure that all contractors are using the correct fall arrest and prevention equipment and that no one is exhibiting a need for additional training.

For construction companies, diligence in fall prevention can be essential for ensuring continuity, optimum team morale, and the ability to stay on schedule. For employees, these efforts can be absolutely life-saving. When negligence, oversight, and errors allow these events to occur, the results can include debilitating injuries and even loss of life.

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