Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2015, the latest year data is available, falls resulted in the deaths of 350 construction workers. Each of those deaths was preventable. A slippery surface, a missing harness or a missing guard could possibly end a worker’s life. To help increase knowledge of employer responsibility and reduce the number of fall deaths in the construction industry, OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)-Construction Sector on a nationwide outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards in construction.
As part of the campaign, OSHA and a number of key groups hosted the fourth annual National Fall Prevention Stand-Down May 8-12, 2017. The voluntary event encouraged employers to take a break on the jobsite and “have a conversation with employees about hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety policies and goals,” according to OSHA’s website. The campaign is a welcome step to reducing on-the-job fall injuries and deaths.
In New York, falls topped the list of causes of construction-related deaths due to New York City being the U.S. city with the highest fatal construction injury rate, according to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH)’s report, Deadly Skyline: An Annual Report on Construction Fatalities in New York State. The study states:
OSHA regulations around the proper construction of scaffolding and the mandatory and proper use of personal protective equipment like harnesses on active construction sites are intended to prevent workers from falling to their death. However, the failure of construction employers to take mandated fall prevention measures results in preventable worker fatalities.
The study determined the most commonly found employer violations involved failing to take fall prevention measures. The experience our lawyers have had in workplace litigation confirms the study’s findings.
Machine or equipment defects also play a role in compounding employer safety lapses. For example, our firm recently handled a suit on behalf of the family of a worker killed when his hanging basket fell during the construction of Montgomery, Alabama’s Outer Loop Project. OSHA fined the employer $54,500 for four safety violations, including failing to provide the two men killed with required fall protection. We also filed a suit that was settled out of court against the basket’s manufacturer for defective product design.
It is simple: Violating health and safety laws and allowing defectively designed machines on the market causes preventable workplace fatalities. Whether through using OSHA’s Stand-Down week or other avenues, employers and manufacturers must create an open dialogue about safety and uphold safety regulations meant to allow everyone to make it home each night. If you need more information on this subject, contact Kendall Dunson, who handles workplace litigation for our firm, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Kendall.Dunson@beasleyallen.com.
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