Construction sites by their very nature are dangerous. The potential for injury and even death to workers is something that OSHA has addressed. It has been reported that falls are the leading cause of death in construction, accounting for one third of all construction-related fatalities. These falls are preventable through proper planning, the use of the right equipment, and employees appropriately and adequately training their employees. OSHA 1926.501 requires employees to be protected from falling at heights six feet or more above a lower level.
OSHA says that planning for fall protection begins at the bidding stage. The cost of furnishing appropriate equipment must be included in contractors’ budgets. Prior to construction, contractors should determine what fall protection measures should be taken so that those elements can be procured. Such things as how workers will gain vertical access throughout the project must be addressed. Temporary stairways, ladders, scaffolds, and aerial lifts must be provided for employees to use. Workers must be protected when working at leading edges. Steel members can have holes pre-punched to receive perimeter cables or horizontal lifelines. Davits can be embedded in concrete elements to serve as anchor locations for fall arrest systems.
Proper equipment must be furnished. This equipment must also be properly used and maintained. Fall protection equipment includes the stairways, ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts and fall arrest systems mentioned above. Also, covers for floor, roof and wall openings need to be considered. Safety nets may be a potential fall protection solution. Guard rails should be provided at locations along the building perimeter and at interior openings. Aerial lifts and man-baskets need to be equipped with railings and tie-off points. Personal fall arrest systems must include lanyards which match their particular use. Ladders need to be of sufficient height that they are easily grasped at the top when ascending or descending. This equipment must be regularly inspected and repaired or replaced when parts are worn, broken, bent, frayed, or otherwise damaged.
Falls can be prevented when employees learn to recognize fall hazards and what corrective procedures to utilize to erect, inspect, and maintain fall protection systems. OSHA 1926.503 requires employers to provide training programs for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. Retraining may be required for employees who haven’t demonstrated the proper fall protection skills. Specific scaffold training is required for those working on scaffolds.
OSHA says that out of 4,114 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2011, 721 (17.5%) were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, followed by electrocution, struck by object, and caught-in/between. These four causes were responsible for nearly 57% of the construction worker deaths in 2011. Eliminating them would save 410 workers’ lives in America every year. Deaths from these four causes were as follows:
• Falls caused 251 out of 721 total deaths in construction in CY 2011 (35%);
• Electrocutions caused 67 (9%);
• Struck by Object caused 73 (10%); and
• Caught-in/between caused 19 (3%).
It’s necessary to recognize what safety regulations are being violated in the work place in order to work on stronger preventive measures. It was reported that the following are the Ten Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards Violated in FY2011:
• Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451).
• Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501).
• Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200).
• Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134).
• Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147).
• Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305).
• Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178).
• Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053).
• Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303).
• Machine guarding (machines, general requirements, general industry) (29 CFR 1910.212).
I hope you will find the above information to be helpful. Prevention of injuries in the workplace is a shared responsibility between employees and employers with employers having the more dominant role in making sure – to the extent possible – that workplaces are safe. The government’s role is to make sure that the employers meet their responsibilities.
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