“Falls are consistently the number one killer in construction,” according to Travis Parsons, LHSFNA Senior Safety and Health Specialist, “Every employer should be concerned about the growing problem and want to implement some sort of fall protection.”

Fall fatalities rose from 2003 to 2004 (the most recent year for which data is available), causing 815 deaths in all industries, an increase of 17 percent. Falls accounted for 14 percent of the year’s total occupational deaths.

Of the 1224 deaths in construction in 2004, 441 (36%) were from falls. Why so many falls?

According to Parsons, “Most falls occur because of lack of fall protection. In 80-90 percent of falls, the worker was not wearing a harness. There is also a significant lack of training about falls and a lack of commitment to stopping them.”

Fall hazards can be lowered by adopting and implementing a fall prevention plan in the company safety and health program. The LHSFNA can conduct worksite audits to develop site-specific ideas for fall protection. Good housekeeping leads to fewer chances of slips, trips and falls as well.

Thirty-nine percent of the 2004 increase, 178 deaths, were workers who fell off a roof, up from 128 in 2003. Falls from ladders also increased from 114 to 133, which is a 17 percent rise.

Hispanic workers’ deaths from falls increased 27 percent from 2003 to 2004. One reason so many Hispanic workers die from falls is because they are put into bad situations. “Many are not properly trained on their rights or about fall prevention,” says Parsons. “Some of them feel they have more to gain then to lose by working under such conditions to earn their paycheck.

“The sad part is that if you just take the time and effort to do things correctly, falls are completely preventable,” he adds.

The LHSFNA, which is developing a webpage on fall protection, currently publishes a fall protection health alert in English and Spanish. Fund participants can order copies from the online catalogue. More information on fall protection is available at OSHA.