Falls are the number one cause of construction worker fatalities. They make up a third of all on-the-job deaths in the industry. Not using proper fall protection caused 401 deaths in construction in 2019, according to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. While construction falls can be deadly, they are also preventable with these tips:
1 Wear a harness and always stay connected.
OSHA requires construction workers to wear a full-body harness when working at heights at or above 6 feet. Keep the harness connected to an anchor or a series of anchor points using a lanyard and possibly a deceleration device or lifeline at all times.
2 Make sure the harness fits.
Choosing the right size and wearing it correctly saves lives. Ensure the D-ring fits in the center of the back, the chest strap is at mid-chest, and the shoulder and leg straps have no slack. The harness should feel snug while allowing a full range of motion.
3 Use guardrails or lifelines.
Safety guardrails create a barrier from the leading edge of a rooftop to prevent a fall from happening. Lifelines keep a falling worker from hitting the surface below. Review OSHA’s Fall Protection in Construction Technical Manual to learn how to use each system for different job sites.
4 Inspect all fall protection equipment before use.
A competent person should inspect fall protection equipment every six months or as often as the manufacturer recommends. Each user should also inspect the equipment at the beginning and end of each workday. Look for loose threads, pulled rivets, burns, cuts, abrasions, or wear that may weaken the equipment. Check for cracks or breaks in hooks, buckles, or D-rings. Immediately remove damaged or worn equipment from service.
5 Guard or cover all holes, openings, and skylights.
Always cover holes or place a guardrail system along the unprotected edges of openings to keep workers from tripping or falling into them. Hole covers should support at least twice the weight of employees or materials.
For more information, download the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation’s (DWC’s) free publications: Fall Protection for the Construction Industry Workplace Program and Personal Fall Protection Systems Fact Sheet; or stream any of DWC’s free workplace safety videos. DWC safety training instructors are available to provide customized training in fall protection for the construction industry by contacting email@example.com or 1-800-252-7031, option 2.