According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are the number one cause of construction worker fatalities. There were 401 deaths, in fact, in 2019, comprising a third of all deaths on the job in the construction industry.
Factors prevalent on the job site, such as elevated heights (from ladders to temporary scaffolding to aerial lifts), contribute to these falls. It is vital for construction workers injured by a fall while on the job to understand more about the top causes and the next steps for their future. Unfortunately, many construction workers are unaware of their legal rights and options.
Cause of Fall: Lacking Sufficient Construction Fall Protection
Employers in the construction industry are legally obligated to provide workers with the tools and equipment that are necessary to perform their jobs safely, which also includes the OSHA-regulated safety equipment they need to prevent or reduce the risk of falls.
Causes of falls on construction sites can include:
- Guardrails, which are required on enclosed platforms at least 42 inches high (scaffolding, scissor lifts, and more).
- Harnesses, which can be worn, have malfunctioning buckles, have faulty hooks or rings, or do not properly fit the worker’s size or weight.
- Safety nets, which can be improperly rigged or fail to meet OSHA’s weight-bearing requirements.
Cause of Fall: Aerial Lift Accidents
Aerial lift accidents are a cause of falls on construction sites because of the combination of several dangerous factors, including:
- A lift being set up on uneven ground, which could lead to the lift swaying, tilting, or tipping, potentially throwing workers out of the bucket at the end of the boom.
- Mechanical failures, including serious product defects.
- Untrained workers, which could be lethal if there are mistakes made with their hands at the lift’s controls.
Cause of Fall: Unfinished Roofs
Roof falls on construction sites, according to OSHA, make up one-third of falls that result in death. This is because of the underlying dangers of roofs that are under construction.
Workers are at risk because of:
- Lack of protective gear
- Unguarded edges of the roof
- Falls through openings because of any unfinished portions of the roof
- Falls off the leading edge of the roof that is under construction
- Errors made by foremen, supervisors, and contractors on the job site
Cause of Fall: Unsafe Ladders
Just because a ladder may not be as high as scaffolding or aerial lifts does not mean these falls on construction sites are not as dangerous. Falls from unsafe ladders can still cause construction workers to suffer from brain injuries, back or spinal cord injuries, or other catastrophic injuries. These dangers also apply to faulty stairways that are under construction.
Ladders should be frequently inspected and work on them supervised to avoid falls and ensure safety from the use of the wrong type of ladder, to ensure there aren’t any broken rungs, and more.
Cause of Fall: Tripping and Slipping Hazards
Falls on construction sites are not always from hazards at staggering heights. They can also occur because of crowded walkways on the ground of a job site that is littered with tools, materials, and other workers.
Several other types of construction site slip, trip, and fall accidents include:
- Paint spills
- Leaving a hammer where another worker can step on it
- Loose boards
- Loose nails or bolts that stick up from the boards
How to Prevent Falls on Construction Sites
There are several ways that construction workers can protect themselves and prevent fall accidents on the job that could result in serious injuries or even death, such as:
Wearing a Harness
OSHA requires it. Construction workers must wear a full-body harness when working at heights of six feet or above. They must also always stay connected to an anchor or a series of anchor points with a lanyard, deceleration device, or lifeline. Workers also need to make sure that the harness properly fits – tight, while allowing for a full range of motion. It could save their lives to check that the D-ring fits in the center of their back, that the chest strap is situated at mid-chest, and that there is no slack in the shoulder or leg straps.
Using Guardrails and Lifelines
OSHA mandates how construction workers and leaders should use guardrail and lifeline systems on the job site. Safety guardrails work as a barrier from the leading edge of a rooftop or platform to prevent falls. Lifelines are an added safety measure built in to prevent workers from falling.
Covering all Uncovered Openings
It is critical for construction site workers and supervisors to ensure that all holes, openings, and/or skylights are covered. Also, hole covers should support at least twice the weight of employees. A guardrail placed along the edges of all openings could also prevent falls.
Inspecting all Safety Equipment
Fall safety equipment should be inspected every six months and when the manufacturer recommends it. Equipment should also be checked over by workers at the start and end of every shift.
- Pulled rivets
- Loose threads
- Cuts, burns, or abrasions
- Cracks or breaks in hooks, buckles, or D-rings
What Construction Workers Should Do After a Fall Accident
Construction workers who have suffered from a fall accident that caused injuries, such as those to the head or brain, back or spinal cord damage, or broken bones, should take several important steps after a construction site accident. First, take care of yourself and your health by seeking out appropriate medical treatment, also be sure to report the injury to your employer or supervisor. But, don’t forget to seek out professional advice by contacting a construction accident lawyer. Our legal team will review the details of your situation and guide you toward the best options to recover maximum compensation.