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Falls In The Construction Industry Safety Toolbox Talk

Educate your teams on the different kinds of falls that can happen on the jobsite and how to prevent them from happening.

Falls In Construction Safety Talk

In 2018 OSHA published its Fatal Four top causes of construction fatalities citing falls as number one. Falls on the job site accounted for over ⅓ or 33.5% of all construction fatalities and rank second for non-fatal injuries in 2018. Let’s review some important best practices you can use today to help prevent falls at your job site.

Falls from a Height

Falls on the job site come in two categories, falls from a height and falls to the same level. All falls from an elevation above ground level are considered falls from a height and working from a height is considered to be all work above six feet off the ground. Falls in this category can include:

  • Roof tops

  • Scaffolding

  • Stilts

  • Cherry pickers

  • Ladders

  • Drilling platforms

  • Stairs

  • Shelving

Falls to the Same Level

Falls to the same level are typically slips and trips on the same level being walked on. While fatalities in this category are lower, major, and sometimes permanent injuries can be the result. Falls to the same level can be caused by:

  • Spills

  • Unlevel grades

  • Slick surfaces

  • Improper footwear

  • Electrical cords

  • Improper stairs

  • Obstructions

  • Poor lighting

How To Plan for Safer Work on the Jobsite

Make your work plan ahead of time. This is especially important for tasks at heights. By planning ahead of time we make safety a priority. Plan what you will need to perform the work safely. This planning includes:

  • Equipment

  • Personnel

  • Tools

  • Weather conditions

  • Lighting

Next, plan on the safety equipment required for the task:

  • Safety lines

  • Rails

  • Scaffolds

  • Cherry pickers

  • PPE

construction worker wearing safety harness.

Absorb proper safety training before the task is attempted. Working from heights is not the time to learn as you go. Plan on reviewing proper use of the equipment and safety gear ahead of the task to make it top of mind.

Balancing excessive weight on ladders, stilts, and scaffolds is a risky business. The elevation when using this kind of equipment changes the worker’s center of gravity and therefore their balance point. The additional weight in shingles, lumber, drywall mud, paint, or whatever materials they are holding increases the effort needed to stabilize themselves above ground.

Be Flexible for Safety

Weather and lighting conditions change and the power goes off unexpectedly. There are ideal conditions for working from heights and there are conditions that are less than ideal. Don't attempt to work when you are tired, sick, or distracted. Be alert and prepared to halt work and correct an unsafe situation or reschedule for another day with safer conditions to continue.

How to Ensure a Safer Jobsite

All necessary safety gear needs to be onsite and ready for every task that is six feet or more above the grade or platform. Allocate enough time to properly gear up and have all required safeguards in place prior to beginning the work.

Survey the surface of the work area as well as the grade below this if workers will be elevated. Make sure elevated work surfaces are perfect. This means:

  • Level

  • Stable

  • Clear of debris

  • Grippy

  • Proper size

Do not compromise on making scaffolds, ladders, and decks level and stable. Help employees learn the proper way to set up ladders and scaffolds as well as show them what is unsafe regarding use. Many falls from ladders and scaffolds occur when someone overreaches from a ladder when the safest thing to do is reposition the ladder closer to the target.

Regularly Check Safety Gear and Essential Equipment

Nothing lasts forever and even ladders wear out. All of your job site equipment that is regularly set up, torn down, transported, and set up again will need to be assessed each time it is used to prevent failure and injury.

Be Aware of Weight Limits

Scaffolds, Ladders, Lifelines, etc… all have noted weight limits to work within. A ladder with a 250 lb. weight limit may support more weight on occasion when it is new. This will make workers complacent and continue to use it over the ladder capacity and lead to premature failure and possible injury. Get the right tool for the job.

Wood planks or sheets are often placed between scaffold frames for platforms and need to be evaluated consistently for cracks and breakage.

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