Alarmingly, construction worker fatalities have been rising since 2015. On-the-job casualties in construction account for approximately 20% of deaths across all U.S. industries — and falls account for more than a third of these deaths.1
Whatever the size of the job—whether it’s a building a municipal bridge or replacing the roof of a three-family apartment house—working on a construction site presents the risk of grave injury from an accidental trip or a steep downward plummet. Preventing such falls is critical to improving workplace safety. Construction workers deserve to work in an industry that prioritizes safety; here are some best practices to help mitigate the danger of falls at your worksites.
1. Create a Culture of Safety in Which Everyone Participates.
While, ultimately, it’s the responsibility of management to ensure a safe worksite, everyone at a worksite has a role to play. At the outset of any project, it’s important to:
As management can’t have eyes everywhere, workers need to look out for each other’s well-being. Encourage your crews to observe their work area closely and immediately report unsafe conditions – such as unprotected floor openings – or safety equipment that is damaged or being improperly used by colleagues.
2. Develop a Proactive Fall Prevention Plan
Prevention is the best “cure” for construction site falls and resulting injuries or fatalities, so proactive, fall specific plans are as important as hard hats. These should be regularly audited and updated; to start:
3. Conduct Fall Prevention Training
Require attendance at fall prevention and protection training on equipment and procedures. Consider the following when planning instruction:
4. Establish a Fallen Worker Rescue Plan
Despite everyone’s best efforts, accidents do happen. When a fall does occur, everyone needs to know what immediate actions to take. An effective plan will outline emergency procedures, medical information, and communication protocols to ensure that injured workers receive treatment as soon as possible.
Also require an accident investigation after any incidents to understand what went wrong and prevent a repeat occurrence.
5. Don’t Overlook Post-Pandemic Safety Challenges
As cities, municipalities, and states lift quarantine restrictions following the COVID-19 pandemic, many construction projects are kicking back into full gear and remobilizing their workforces.
All businesses must take steps to safeguard the health of their employees, such as ensuring social distancing and requiring the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). However, this “new normal” at construction sites poses its own set of safety challenges—slip, trip, and fall risks may be exacerbated by:
Take steps to reorient workers to the construction site, review any changes at the site following shut-down, and provide reminders or refresher training about fall protection measures.