Falls are considered one of the main hazards for workers on job sites, particularly those that require work at elevated heights. However, slips, trips, and falls in the workplace can be just as dangerous.
In the U.S. construction industry, falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities. In Canada, more than sixty thousand workers are injured annually due to fall accidents. This number is approximately fifteen percent of the time-loss injuries that were acknowledged by workers’ compensation boards across Canada. Last year, more than 10,000 employees suffered a major injury as a result of a slip or trip while on the job in the United Kingdom.
Each year, the National Safety Council (NSC) and OSHA, collaborate to determine the top 10 most commonly cited violations in the United States. In 2011, fall protection was the top ranking violation.
In March of 2012, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved the following two American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) standards addressing fall protection:
- ANSI/ASSE Z359.14-2012, Safety Requirements for Self-Retracting Devices for Personal Fall Arrest and Rescue Systems
- ANSI/ASSE Z359.4-2012, Safety Requirements for Assisted-Rescue and Self-Rescue Systems, Subsystems and Components
Tom Wolner, chair of the above subcommittees, stated “The major focus [of these standards is] to emphasize the need for preplanning each potential rescue scenario with the expectation that employers and equipment users will use the code to develop effective rescue procedures.”
The following steps should be taken to minimize the risk of a fall hazard:
- Where protection is required, select fall protection systems appropriate for the given situation
- Regularly clean the construction work area of all debris
- Use proper construction and installation of safety systems
- Supervise employees properly
- Train workers in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of all protection systems
- Properly store and maintain fall protection equipment (store away from heath and chemicals, remove dirt buildup, etc.)
- Regularly inspect anchorage points for weakening, sharp edges, cracks and tears
- Place hazard signs where a slip or trip is likely to occur
- Consider alternate, safer routes
- Improve gripping (slip-resistant coating, hand rails)