Every day, somewhere in the U.S. and Canada, a construction worker dies from falling. Maybe he stepped through a second story floor opening in a single family home under construction, a drop of 45 feet, or lost his balance and plunged 230 feet from a communications tower. Perhaps he fell out of a lift bucket. Regardless of the cause, falls remain the number one killer in the construction industry and the most preventable construction hazard.

Alternate description

LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni

“We applaud OSHA’s emphasis on fall hazards,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni, referring to preliminary figures of OSHA’s most frequently violated standards for the period October 2008 through September 2009. As in previous years, falls top the list. “To avoid citations but, more importantly, to enhance protection for our members, LIUNA signatory employers should take extra precautions to mitigate these dangers.”

Fall Fatalities (2008)

Falls from Ladders64
Falls from Scaffolding52
Falls from Roof98
Falls to Lower Level322

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Because OSHA can inspect only a small portion of construction sites, the agency issues citations as much to send a signal to the whole industry as to punish specific violators. Aggregate citation totals indicate both what OSHA believes are important points of emphasis as well as the most common hazards it encounters in the field. This year’s data show

OSHA has a construction standard and resource page devoted to fall protection. The standard requires that employers provide guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems (harnesses) to every worker exposed to a possible fall of six feet or more. Fall protection is also required on scaffolds ten feet or taller. The OSHA website has sections specifically devoted to falls including those caused by scaffolds and aerial lifts.

The LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division has a web page devoted to fall protection. The division will also provide site-specific audits that assist employers and unions in promoting the health and safety of Laborers on the job, enhance productivity and curtail costs for LIUNA signatory employers. Additional information on LHSFNA’s programs and assistance can be found on the LHSFNA website at www.lhsfna.org.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]