Falling into Workplace Safety

OSHA reports that falls are the most frequent cause of fatalities at construction sites and annually account for one of every three construction-related deaths. Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics states there were at least 442 construction worker fatalities during 2007 as a result from falls. This is a staggering statistic. Contractors have to emphasize the importance of fall protection standards and fall protection systems. Fall hazardsare always a main focus of OSHA inspectors.

Frequently issued fall protection citations include:

  • No guard rails at open sided floors
  • Floor opening not covered or guarded
  • Wall openings not guarded
  • Wire rope guard rails deflecting more than 3 inches

The best plan of action for preventing or altogether eliminating hazardous falls includes:

  • Eliminating the need to work off of the ground (ideal)
  • Fall prevention systems
  • Fall arrest systems
  • Warning lines
  • Safety monitoring
  • Administration of fall protection policies

Major aspects of OSHA 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart M

  • Fall protection must be in place for work areas 6 ft. or higher
  • Walking and working surfaces must be inspected prior to work
  • Surfaces must be strong enough to support workers
  • Guardrails must be 42 inches (plus or minus 3 inches) above working surfaces and capable of supporting 200 pounds
  • Body belts are no longer an acceptable means of fall arrest
  • The employer shall provide a certified training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards
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