Companies are still failing to do what is necessary to protect their workers from serious falls and fatal falling accidents while on the job. Falls at work are often serious.
We know that falls are the primary cause of death for construction workers in the United States. Construction accidents where a worker falls to his death, or is seriously hurt and later dies from injuries sustained in that fall, do NOT have to happen.
Work site falls on construction sites are preventable accidents. If there is safety in place, then the fall can be prevented.
But companies keep choosing profits over people, and employers keep failing to provide fall protection for workers. This means innocent victims are suffering serious injuries in falls on the work site. Some are fatal injuries.
Top 10 OSHA Violations: Fall Protection Is Number One (Again)
How do we know this is true? It’s the end of the year and tallies are being taken. Once again, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reviewed its records for the year to determine how things are going in the nation, work-safety wise.
Last week, OSHA’s Top Ten Most Cited Violations for 2016 were announced by the agency. These are the bottom line totals for the number of OSHA violations reported during the year, where employers ignored the safety standards set by the regulations. Standards designed for no other reason than to keep people safe.
For the sixth year in a row, failure to provide protection from fall injuries remains as the number one danger for American workers.
“Fall Protection” is the title for the federal regulatory standard that applies here. This is a federal requirement issued by OSHA; it’s not a guideline. It is a federal regulation that employers are legally required to obey and follow.
OSHA’s “fall protection” regulation has several components. Overall, the regulation is designed to help keep employees safe as they work anywhere close to a side or edge or footing that is 6 feet or more above the ground.
Safety Standards for Work Areas and for Individual Workers
The Fall Protection Requirement (read OHSA Regulation 1926.501 here) means employers need to check the work areas that they are expecting their workers to walk over, stand, climb, etc. as they perform their tasks. These surfaces need to have “… the strength and structural integrity to support employees safely.” This is the primary concern: that the boss doesn’t make workers walk on flimsy flooring or rotted roofs that cannot support their weight.
Employers Are To Monitor the Safety of Work Environment
However, OSHA regulations go further than this in trying to establish safety standards for work surfaces to keep workers safe from falls. Under this standard, employers are also required to provide their workers with safety protections that work to keep the individual from falling while on the job.
That includes making sure to inspect the site and having things like guardrails, safety nets, and mesh as safety guards.
The employer needs to spend some money to make the site itself safe. Time needs to be expended as well, to inspect and maintain the work area. Time and money are in the balance against the risk of someone being seriously hurt.
Employers Must Provide Special Safety Gear to Individual Workers, Too
Safety here also means that employers are to take extra care to keep people safe when they are required to use stilts, etc., as part of their job. See OSHA Regulation 1926.502.
This means providing the individual worker with safety equipment like body belts, snaphooks, lifelines, harnesses, anchorages, and more.
What the employee will need may depend upon what is being asked of that worker. The employer is expected to know what each employee needs to be safe from falls while working.
For instance, a residential construction contractor is required to know the unique safety needs of each employee. If one worker needs to stand on a raised platform in the basement, then he may need different safety equipment than a co-worker who is doing roof repair.
Top Five Workplace Fall Dangers in 2016
So what does this mean for everyone here in Indiana and Illinois? If you or a loved one work in a job where you may walk on a surface that is at least six feet (6′) off the ground, then these OSHA regulations apply to you. And based upon the OSHA findings, you may or may not be getting the protection you should have from a serious fall accident while on the job.
Those working in construction here need to take particular note of these findings, especially those who work in residential construction.
Why? That’s where most of the safety standards are being ignored and violated. According to OSHA, in 2016, the top five types of violations involving fall protection were:
- Residential construction (3911 violations)
- Unprotected sides or edges (1278 violations)
- Roofing work on low-slope roofs (625 violations)
- Roofing work on steep roofs (523 violations)
- Holes and skylights (154 violations).
Indiana and Illinois Workers and Fall Injuries on the Job
Workers in both Indiana and Illinois who suffer a serious bodily injury from a fall while working on the job may have claims to pursue through their state workers’ compensation system.
Both Indiana and Illinois have passed a system of laws to protect injured workers after a work accident.
There are also legal avenues in place to help accident victims who suffer fatal injuries in a fall accident on the job. State wrongful death laws exist to help families in the aftermath of these tragedies.
However, the obvious solution would be for employers to take the necessary steps to make sure that their workers are safe while on the job. Fall protections like safety belts, harnesses, safety nets, and more are not that complicated and they are known to be effective. Fall protections must be in place, though.
The news from OSHA reveals that all too often, workers are being asked to perform without required safety standards in place. Fall protections are the top OSHA-cited violation.
We know there are workers who are working in danger of a serious and perhaps life-threatening fall simply because employers are ignoring safety. Be careful out there!