Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry and account for about one-third of all work-related deaths in the industry, according to information available from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In 2015, there were 350 fatal falls out of 937 construction fatalities. In 2013, there were 291 fatal falls out of 828 fatalities in the construction industry.
Falls are costly for workers, their families and their employers. The National Council on Compensation Insurance, a leading provider of workers’ compensation data, has estimated that the average cost to an employer when a roofer falls is about $106,000 per injured roofer.
Roofers aren’t the only workers affected. Falls and falls from ladders are also an issue for maintenance and utility workers.
Of course, apart from the physical injuries sustained, falls can be tough on the hurt worker and his family because of lost income as the worker heals from the damage or the family comes to term with the death of a loved one.
As part of a campaign to prevent falls, several agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have put together these suggestions:
Plan ahead. When working from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs and other heights, employers can ensure that the job is done safely through good planning. Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task. The cost of safety equipment should be included when estimating the cost of a job. For example, in a roofing job, think about the different fall hazards presented, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select fall protection suitable to the work, such as personal fall arrest systems. Obviously, all the necessary equipment and tools should be available at the construction site.
Provide the right equipment. Workers who are more than six feet above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they fall. Different types of ladders and scaffolds are appropriate for different types of jobs. To protect these workers, employers should provide fall protection and the equipment for the job, including ladders, scaffolds and safety gear most suited for the job. Always provide workers with the kind of equipment they need to get the job done safely. For roof work, there are many ways to prevent falls. If workers use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits and regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it’s still in good condition and safe to use.
Train everyone to safely use the equipment. It is wise to provide training on the specific equipment needed to complete the job as falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and use of equipment. Employers should train workers in hazard recognition and in the maintenance and safe use of ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems and the other equipment they’ll be using on the job.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a fall or other type of accident, you may have a valid personal injury claim under Maryland law. Contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, at the law office at 410.244.5068 or through our website for a free consultation.