Half of all work-related falls occur at construction sites. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and permanent injuries among construction workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2008, falls were responsible for 34 percent of the 969 construction workers killed on the job. In Canada, half of all construction fatalities are fall-related. Non-fatal falls cause thousands of serious injuries and billions of dollars in workers’ compensation claims, slow project completions and hurt bottom lines.
“Every day, a construction worker is killed in a fall, but these tragedies aren’t inevitable,” asserts LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan. “We know how to prevent falls and how to protect workers.”
Many factors contribute to this epidemic: poor company safety cultures, weak supervision of subcontractors, unavailability of proper fall prevention/fall arrest equipment, inadequate worker training and inconsistent worker behavior. Although preliminary figures for 2009 show that fatal falls decreased from 700 to 617, the BLS attributes the drop to the economic downturn – fewer projects, fewer people working.
OSHA addresses fall protection in a specific construction standard, but requirements alone do not substantially abate the fall hazard. The LHSFNA encourages Laborers to be more aware and advocate for broader fall protection training such as that offered by LIUNA Training and Education centers across the U.S. and Canada. The LHSFNA also wants OSHA to embrace broader strategies (see opposite page) to move fall protection higher on the nation’s safety agenda and farther upstream in building design and workplace management.
“Although the slips, trips and missteps that lead to falls can happen anywhere, serious injuries and deaths needn’t be the result,” says O’Sullivan. “With a comprehensive and sustained effort, risks can be minimized and falls can be prevented. We all need to take this problem more seriously.”
[Janet Lubman Rathner]
Fall Protection Publications from the LHSFNA
Auditing Your Jobsite for Safety (checklists)
It’s Your Life (pamphlet)
Laborers’ True Stories (DVD)
Scaffold User Pocket Guide for Laborers
Fall Protection in Construction (health alert)
Falls from Heights (health alert)
These publications are available through the LHSFNA’s online Publications Catalogue.
Additional online resources