Workers Still Ignoring Fall Protection

The information is clearly out there for all to see. The risk of injury or death from construction workers that work without the proper fall protection equipment is alarmingly high. Yet we still see a large amount of workers still ignoring fall protection. A recent study by the researchers/authors of Fall Protection in Residential Construction Sites, studied compliance at nearly 200 construction sites and the numbers were a definite cause for concern.

The safety equipment is out there and the statistics are proven, but even so, the defiance still continues. According to a 2011 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), falls account for 64 percent of the fatalities in residential building and 100 percent among framing contractors.

This particular study showed that of the nearly 200 residential construction sites studied, only 59 percent were in compliance with fall protection/prevention measures. Which means 41 percent of the workers at these sites are walking on top of roofs and high risk areas without fall arrest or protection.

Infographic on fall protection
Infographic on fall protection


The article’s authors Vicki Kaskutas, Bradley Evanoff and Harry Miller also report on a survey they conducted with carpentry professionals among the sites. The carpenters were shown a presentation about various fall protection devices and asked to rate them accordingly. The researchers used top-rated devices and the crews were trained to install and use them.

The study found that many of the carpenters viewed the commercially available solutions as effective in preventing falls and could be used with very minimal training. These included fall protection solutions for protection of floor openings, provision of temporary walking surfaces and personal fall arrest anchorage.  However, a primary concern among the participants was the effect it would have on productivity.

There is a learning curve when using a new fall protection device; this can add time to the home building process, which is a major concern in the current economic environment.

-Vicki Kaskutas

While the carpenters complaints of productivity were taken into consideration, the researchers point out several solutions to overcome their obstacles.

  • Repetitive use of a device to lead to long-term adoption of the technology;
  • Loaning of pilot-tested equipment to contractors to allow them to integrate it into their workplace before they buy it; and
  • Assistance by fall protection equipment rental companies to help contractors identify and locate the best equipment for a particular need.

Preventing construction falls has to be a top priority among contractors everywhere. The deaths and injuries associated with falls in the construction industry are preventable with the right training and equipment. There’s no reason why 264 people had to die in 2010 (according to OSHA), as a result of a fall, while working in construction.

Don’t forget about OSHA

We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths

-Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA

OSHA has recently teamed with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the National Occupation Research Agenda to form a nationwide campaign designed to prevent construction falls around three areas of concern.

OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign:
  • PLAN ahead to get the job done safely: This process determines how the job is going to get done and what tasks are needed to complete it. Also, what safety equipment is needed to complete each task.
  • PROVIDE the right equipment: Each job is different and may require specific equipment in order to complete it in a safe manner.
  • TRAIN everyone to use the equipment safely: Before using the specific equipment they will be using, employees need to understand the proper set-up and safe use of the equipment they intend to use. It is mandatory that employers provide the necessary training for workers in hazard recognition, the care and safe use of ladders, scaffolds and fall protection systems before they use them.

You can browse the through the full Fall Prevention Campaign here.

NIOSH has also launched a site as part of their participation. The site stopconstructionfalls.com provides information regarding safety and health hazards associated with working from heights. The goal of the site is to prevent fatal falls in construction zones and provide the tools necessary to do so effectively. This is a free site for users.

Additional Resources