Each year, thousands of construction employees fall victim fatal accidents. Even more unfortunate than the accidents themselves is the fact that, in many of these cases, the tragic event was completely preventable. This is no more evident than when it comes to dealing with fatal falls in the workplace, as nearly half of all workplace related falls were due not having adequate safety railings in place.
Workplace safety should always be at the forefront of a business owners mind when compiling their standards and procedures. Safety is universal regardless of the industry you may be in, and should be held to a higher standard than any other business process or practice on the job.
Careers in construction are among the most risky in the private sector. In fact, one in ten construction workers are injured every year, and a construction worker has a one in 200 chance of dying over the course of a 45-year career!
Workplace Fatalities in Construction
It’s no surprise that plenty of preventable workplace injuries and fatalities involve construction workers. As most jobs are high-risk and dangerous, the potential for catastrophe is greater than those in other private sector industries.
So much so, in fact, that the risk of injury or death has begun to discourage younger members of the workforce from pursuing a career in construction. In the year 2000, the median age of construction workers was 37.9. By the time that figure was measured again in 2010, the number had jumped all the way to 40.4 years old.
Because of these dire straits, extra precautions must always be taken.
Jobs in construction have their own specific batch of common accidents that result in fatalities, including:
- Struck by object injuries
- Caught-in/between injuries
OSHA describes these common construction fatalities as their Fatal Four. These accidents accounted for more than half of all construction-related deaths in 2017. Unfortunately, they are not only some of the most common, but also some of the most preventable. In fact, OSHA estimates that 39.2% of these Fatal Four accidents were due to falls – something easily preventable through the utilization of effective rooftop safety railings and various rooftop safety equipment.
OSHA estimates that eliminating the Fatal Four would save 582 worker’s lives in America each year.
Fatalities Due to Falling
While all industries have their fair share of accidents and incidents, the construction industry stands high above the rest. According to OSHA, out of 4,674 worker fatalities in private industry for the calendar year 2017, 971 (or 20.7%) were in construction. Additionally, fall protection in construction was the number one most frequently cited OSHA violation for 2018.
Fatal falls aren’t anything new for the construction sector. A recently constructed database allowed researchers to determine that, over a 33-year period, falls accounted for nearly half of all construction worker deaths. What’s more, this database was also able to track and analyze all fall incidents from 1982-2015. The results were sobering, albeit perhaps not that surprising:
- 42% of the total fatalities analyzed involved falls from greater than six-feet
- 107 of the 325 falls were from 30 feet or higher, further illustrating the need for every company to have some sort of rooftop safety system in place, such as roof access ladders
- 20% of the 768 deaths occurred in the victim’s first two months at work, leading many to believe that these workplaces are not adequately training their new hires before putting them into potentially dangerous situations
As is the case by and large throughout the industry, these falls were largely preventable. The same referenced study noted that, out of those fatalities, more than half of the workers involved lacked access to fall protection.
Protection and Future Precautions
Fortunately, preventive measures can be taken by construction companies to ensure the safety of their workers. Proactive management along with OSHA compliance can go a long way in protecting your workers and the reputation of your business – saving you time, money, and hardship in the process.
Many companies utilize a free-standing, non-penetrating 360 mobile safety rails along their rooftops or any height greater than six feet in the construction industry. Non-penetrating rooftop guardrails eliminate the need for costly, time-consuming construction as it relates to rooftop safety rails. Most are easily installed, and will keep workers safe, along with keeping your company OSHA compliant. (As seen below.)
In addition to rooftop guardrails, a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) can be used to protect workers operating on rooftops or other high surfaces. A PFAS is designed to stop falls before a worker reaches a lower level.