Do employees or contractors you hire perform work at elevations using ladders, scaffolds, or lifts? Do they clean gutters, trim trees, perform minor roofing repairs, change lighting, paint at heights, etc.? If so, then the preventive measures taken can greatly reduce their chance of a fatal injury.
Before discussing methods of preventing “falls from elevations,” let’s put the issue into context with a focus on the revised 2011 workplace fatality data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which report that 4,609 workers were killed on the job.
Fatal falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 666 workers in 2011, or about 14 percent of all fatal work injuries. Falls to “lower level” accounted for 541 of those fatalities.
The height of the fall was reported in 451 of the 541 fatal falls from elevation. Of those 451 fatal cases, 115 occurred after a fall of 10 feet or less, 118 occurred from a fall of over 30 feet, 38 occurred after a fall from a collapsing structure or equipment and 60 occurred from a fall through a surface or existing opening (e.g., skylights, hatches, etc.).
In the state of Michigan during a five-year period from 2006 to 2010, falls accounted for 22 percent of the more than 181 workplace fatalities investigated by MIOSHA. In construction, the number is even higher at 29 percent of fatalities investigated.
Additionally, within the last three years, MIOSHA and OSHA have reported that fall protection and scaffolding violations are the top two cited. Ladder violations range from #5 to #9 within the ranking of most cited violations. Both agencies continue to dedicate a greater degree of enforcement and training focus in these areas.
A 43-year-old carpenter was working on a ladder that barely reached the roof edge. The base of the ladder slipped away in the ice and snow, causing the employee to fall 8 feet.
A 33-year-old laborer was working near the edge of a roof. When he pulled on an electrical cord to power a screw gun, he lost his balance and fell off the roof 28 feet to the ground below.
A 46-year-old landscaping employee stringing decorative lights climbed a tree to about 30 feet above the ground. The employee fell from the tree and died 18 days later from multiple injuries.
The following preventive practices, while not exhaustive, provide the fundamental basis for an effective program:
Understand if the work being performed is considered construction or service, and which safety standards apply. See below the list of safety standards that will likely apply.
Conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA) to determine the safest way to do the job and select the right tools and equipment.
Conduct safety training.
Use guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or appropriate restraints when exposed to a fall hazard.
Place guardrails around skylights and place solid covers on roof openings.
Cover or guard floor holes or openings immediately.
Survey existing structures to ensure surfaces are safe to walk on.
Ensure ladders are appropriate and long enough to do the job. Secure ladders at the top whenever possible. Do not stand on the top two steps.
Inspect equipment before use and do not use when damaged or defective.
Follow safety rules and instructions.
Look out for co-workers and tell them when you see something unsafe.
Select qualified contractors and vendors that ensure their employees work safely.
MIOSHA Standards That Apply to Fall Prevention can be found at:
Part 6, Personal Protective Equipment
Part 12, Scaffolds & Scaffold Platforms
Part 21, Guarding of Walking & Working Surfaces
Part 26, Steel Erection
Part 32, Aerial Work Platforms
Part 45, Fall Protection
Part 2, Floor & Wall Openings, Stairways & Skylights
Part 5, Scaffolding
Part 33, Personal Protective Equipment
Part 53, Tree Trimming & Removal
Part 58, Vehicle Mounted Elevating Platforms
Should you require assistance with preventing falls, e.g., determining applicability, completing JHAs, conducting employee training, etc., please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or Gary.Smith@cmi-yorkrsg.com.