The vast majority of workers in the construction industry and related fields like roofing complete each job safely and efficiently. However, the job is still among the most risky occupations in the U.S., with most safety incidents concentrating within a few key areas. Among the top safety concerns for construction workers is the risk of falling from an elevated position.
“Falling constitutes the biggest risk of injury for construction workers.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls constitute the most common cause of injuries and fatalities in any work environment, although most of these incidents tend to cluster in the construction industry. In 2015, 350 fatalities were recorded among construction workers who fell from a significant height. Year after year, falling accidents make up the largest share of injuries and fatalities among construction professionals.
In an effort to combat these statistics and promote greater awareness of fall prevention tactics, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration holds an annual week-long campaign known as the Safety Stand-Down. From May 8-12, 2017, OSHA will work to encourage construction professionals of all kinds to evaluate and improve their fall prevention protocols.
To do this, OSHA has distributed materials to employers around the U.S. to assist them in holding their own brief fall prevention seminar. By taking just a few minutes out of one work day in the second week of May, OSHA noted that employers and employees could take a major step toward reducing the number of serious injuries suffered from falls on the job.
The keys to the OSHA Stand-Down campaign constitute the three vital elements of fall prevention:
The first step toward preventing deadly falls is understanding what usually causes them. As OSHA explained, despite their prevalence, all injuries from falls on the job are preventable. That prevention starts with an overview of a specific job’s objectives followed by an analysis of fall risk. For example, roofing contractors need to take several different hazards into consideration, including holes or skylights on the surface of the roof, as well as the location of leading edges. From there, supervisors can put the correct safety equipment in place and prepare to train workers on their use.
Providing the right equipment
OSHA regulations require some form of fall protection in any situation where workers will be operating more than six feet above lower levels. This equipment ranges from ladders of various kinds, to scaffolding and harnesses. In roofing work, it’s common to implement a personal fall arrest system that anchors each individual worker to a secure point.
Training every worker correctly
Even the best equipment money can buy is practically useless if workers are not trained on how to implement it. Job managers must take the time to train everyone who will be working at an elevated position on how to use their respective fall protection equipment. OSHA provides several manuals and factsheets for using several types of safety gear, including extension ladders, guardrails, lifelines and more.
Participation in the Safety Stand-Down is completely optional, but could go a long way toward preventing these injuries that are all too common across the industry. Activities within the program can be structured as a toolbox talk or team meeting, or might take the form of equipment inspections or demonstrations. No matter what these discussions look like, they will certainly go a long way toward fostering a safer work environment for everyone, not only workers and supervisors but also the people living and working around them.
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