Review of Fall Injuries in the Construction Industry
|✅ Paper Type: Free Essay||✅ Subject: Construction|
|✅ Wordcount: 1926 words||✅ Published: 18th May 2020|
This research paper discusses the frequency, severity, causation factors, and corrective measures of fall injuries in the construction industry.
Review of Fall Injuries in the Construction Industry
Injuries due to falls continue to plague the construction industry. Fall protection
compliance is the most frequently cited standard by Federal OSHA in 2017 for the industry
(United States Department of Labor, OSHA, n.d.).
Fall fatalities are the number one cause of fatal injuries in the construction industry as
well. A total of 384, or 38%, of the 991 construction related fatalities were a result of falls
(United States Department of Labor, OSHA, n.d.). This staggering statistic is obviously on
OSHA’s radar and the industry is responding to the agency’s pressure. Small employers
represent 55% of the fall injuries (The Center for Construction Research and Training, 2013).
Federal OSHA performed an analysis of data from 2005 – 2007 and determined that falls
from elevations by roofers cost an average of $106,000 each, falls from elevations by carpenters
cost more than $97,000 each, and the average cost of a fall from elevation, for all other
occupational classifications were under $50,000. Additionally, falls from ladders or scaffolds by
roofers cost approximately $68,000 each, and falls from ladders or scaffolds by carpenters cost
nearly $62,000 each (Industrial Safety & Hygiene News, 2012). While these costs are immense,
data from OSHA inspections indicate that the industry has yet to ensure fall protection
OSHA standards for the construction industry require employees exposed to fall hazards
greater than six feet to be provided fall protection in the form of a guard rail, safety net, personal
fall arrest system, or a personal fall restraint device. The requirements, of course, are complex,
with many exceptions and regulatory interpretations. Even seasoned safety professionals can
misinterpret the regulatory requirements of fall protection.
For instance, fall protection requirements on scaffolding are not required until an
employee is greater than 10 feet off of the lower level. Employees working in the basket of a
boom-lift must be tied-off at all times using a travel restraint lanyard.
Steel erection construction employees have even greater leniency as fall protection is not
required until they are 15 feet off of the ground. Employees completing connector work in steel
erection have yet another threshold of 30 feet or two stories, whichever is less. Deckers are also
allowed a 30 foot exemption after establishing a controlled decking zone.
Components of a personal fall arrest system consist of a properly fitted fall protection
harness with a D ring, a self-retracting life line and a permanent or temporary fall arrest anchor
capable of withstanding 5,000 pounds per attached employee.
Employees working off of ladders have different requirements. Ladders generally must
be rated to sustain at least four times the maximum intended load. In any case where the climb
on a fixed ladder is greater than 24 feet or where the climb is less than 24 feet but the top of the
ladder is greater than 24 feet above a lower level, fall protection must be provided by one of the
following means: a ladder safety device, a self-retracting lifeline, or a cage or a well.
Safety professionals have to evaluate on a recurring basis each work site to determine the
possible fall protection scenarios which may occur and effectively communicate their findings to
employees and supervisory staff. Each construction project is generally unique and requires a
combination of systems and policies to effectively eliminate fall hazards. This task is further
complicated by varied construction techniques and new materials entering the market, weather
constraints, language barriers and numerous contractors and sub-contractors.
Fall protection components, hardware and devices are viewed by some contractors as
financially overly burdensome. One weld-on anchor can cost over $100. Providing employees
with ample fall protection equipment is lacking in residential construction. Home builders must
invest in employee safety instead of profits (Frontiers in Public Health, 2018).
A common fallacy is the understanding that fall protection is not required if the duration
of the exposure is less than 30 minutes (American Society of Safety Engineers, 2017). A
fatal fall can occur in less than a second as a result of just one a mis-step or other unplanned
Training employees is a key component of a proper fall protection system. The majority
of training material presented to employees is simply a summary of the OSHA standards and
does not provide the necessary detail and solutions on how to translate the standards into
actionable, realistic work practices (American Society of Safety Engineers, 2017).
Framers at a particular job site may be 100% trained for fall protection hazards and
extremely safety conscious, although an untrained electrician may create an unforeseen hazard
for the entire construction crew. Many job site sites are composed of a number of various trades
including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, welders, HVAC specialists, insulators, masons, and
various temporary labor.
Fall protection has received a great deal of attention in recent years. OSHA has hosted
The National Fall Safety Stand-Down starting in 2012 and this event has continued. This
emphasis, which is part of OSHA’s fall prevention campaign in order to garner greater attention
to fall safety hazards, has had a positive effect on the industry (Plumbing and Mechanical, 2015).
Construction is a very dynamic industry with sites changing rapidly. Effective proven
corrective measures are varied and there is not one silver bullet alone to ensure complete fall
protection safety, but rather a shotgun approach. The reasons for non-compliance with the
OSHA standard and resulting injuries are numerous.
Effective measures to combat fall protection injuries include perform the work at ground
level if possible and minimizing the time spent working at elevation. Pre-plan and use
ergonomic principles to design the task to be as easy and stable as possible. Research and select
an appropriate means for elevating workers based on the task requirements and other
considerations. Provide protection to prevent falls that might otherwise occur. Provide fall arrest
systems for those tasks with residual fall risk (American Society of Safety Engineers,2018).
Ensuring each employee is trained properly and has the requisite fall protection devices
to perform their specialized job task as a cohesive safe unit can be a daunting undertaking for
any safety professional. Individual employee variables such as tenure in the industry, past fall
protection exposures, previous level of training and comprehension, language skills and time
constraints for their specific job tasks all add to the complexity of ensuring a safe construction
The National Institute of Safety & Health (NIOSH) Ladder Safety application for smart
phones is an excellent tool to assist even the most seasoned construction worker. The
application is free, available in Spanish and English and is NIOSH’s first mobile application.
The application concentrates on the safe use of extension and step ladder proper use, inspection,
selection, accessories and most importantly the correct angle to position an extension ladder with
a click of the application (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018).
- American Society of Safety Engineers. (2017). Fall Protection: Overcoming misconceptions in residential construction. Professional Safety, 58 -64. Retrieved from http://aeasseincludes.assp.org/professionalsafety/pastissues/062/03/F3_0317.pdf?_ga=2.164103807.1380453843.1539784123-1392480815.1539784123
- American Society of Safety Engineers. (2018). Prevention through planning, working at height. Professional Safety, 22-26. Retrieved from ttp://eds.b.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=fad57051-0967-4059-a81f-8b1b7f3723c9%40sessionmgr101
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/falls/mobileapp.html
- Industrial Safety and Hygiene News. (2012). OSHA adds up the high cost of construction falls. Retrieved from https://www.ishn.com/articles/92384-osha-adds-up-the-high-cost-of-construction-falls
- O’Donnell, K. (2017). Review of the campaign to prevent falls in construction. Frontiers in Public Health (5), 1-4. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00275/full
- Plumbing and Mechanical. (2015). OSHA to host second-annual construction fall safety stand-down. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=342370076423%40sessionmgr4007&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=edsbig.A419762982&db=edsbig
- The Center for Construction Research and Training. (2103). The construction chart book. Retrieved from http://stopconstructionfalls.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Fatal-and- Nonfatal-Injuries-from-Falls-in-Construction-2013-update.pdf
- United States Department of Labor. (n.d.). Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Commonly used statistics, Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html
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