The Fourth National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction kicked off Yesterday and will take place everyday this week in New York and all over the country. Employers in the construction industry are invited by OSHA, NIOSH and NORA to take a break and conduct a discussion or a workshop on fall prevention with their workers.
52 workers fatally fell on the job in New York during the recent construction boom. (see previous blog). Fall are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. They account for 37% of all deaths on construction sites. More than half of these fatal falls occurred in small companies that have 10 employees or less. Construction workers aged 45 to 54 years old are the most at risk of dying in a fall.
Last year in the US, 350 hard hats suffered a fatal fall. 1 out of 3 fell from 15 feet or less and 1 out of 4 fell from a ladder. Construction workers may have a false sense of security when using a ladder because it is “not that high” but if they are not using them safely they can get killed. Falls from ladders can be prevented by following safe work practices described below.
Ladders should not be used in the following situations:
- when a worker has to work with heavy equipment
- when the area to be reached by the construction worker is too high
- when the worker has to work from a specific height for a long time
- when a worker has to stand sideways on the ladder to complete his task
All the above situations can lead to dangerous falls and different equipment such as aerial lifts should be used in this type of situation.
If it is safe to use a ladder, workers should still be careful and make sure that they are using the appropriate ladder. The ladder should be long enough so the worker doesn’t have to stand on the top rung. The ladder should always be placed on stable ground and the base should always be proprely secured. It is also important to make sure that the ladder is fully extended. Use barrier or cones to prevent people passing by to be hurt or to trip on the ladder. Always keep your weight centered and make sure to maintain 3 points of contact with the ladder at any time. Do not carry heavy equipment or material and if you use a ladder near a doorway, make sure the door is locked. Ladders should be proprely stored and maintained. Always check that it is in good condition before you start working with it. Don’t use ladders that are bent or that have a missing step. Also verify that the spreader bars can lock. By following these simple safety steps employers and their workers will prevent most falls from ladders.
A complete OSHA documentation in English and Spanish on how to safely use a ladder can be downloaded here