Fall Protection

| OSHA, USF Safety Florida

Written by Gabriel Garcia, PCG, PCC, PCM, USF SafetyFlorida Safety Supervisor

In light of the National Safety Stand-Down observed the week of May 2-6, 2022, let’s look at some statistics. Data obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.org), show fatal work injuries decreased significantly from 5,333 workers in 2019 to 4,764 workers in 2020. Fatalities in construction, however, remain consistent over the past five years averaging at about 1,000 per year. Approximately 40% of construction-related fatalities were from falls.

In 2020, 275 fatalities were recorded throughout the state of Florida, indicating a downward trend over the past three years. Of those, 77 fatalities were attributed to falls. It’s safe to say the majority; if not all these fatalities could have been prevented.

In fiscal year 2020, five out of the ten nationwide most frequently cited OSHA violations were related to fall protection, contributing to 7,459 OSHA fines. Considering each one of these fines accounts for the incident and not the number of employees exposed, it’s clear that a larger problem exists.

Most of these hazards can be attributed to a lack of hazard awareness, the absence of Fall Protection such as guardrails, ladders, scaffolds, and PPE that is available but not used and/or were available but used incorrectly.

These contributing factors share a common denominator, a lack of effective training. By effective training, I mean at a minimum, training that has been provided in the native language of the employee. Let’s face it, any training for the most part is better than no training at all. The length of the training does not necessarily dictate the effectiveness of the training. For example, a four-hour discussion on fall protection may not be as effective as a 30-minute hands-on fall protection equipment training. The most effective training is conducted in the language best understood by the student, involves two-way communication between the instructor and student, provides reference materials to students, which includes hands-on equipment or work processes training, and is accompanied by a written or verbal test to ensure the information provided is being understood. Remember, as humans we tend to learn more by visualizing and doing the task than by listening or reading.

Another contributing factor is the lack of oversight/supervision. As supervisors, we must be more engaged. A thorough job hazard analysis (JHA) could easily identify potential hazards on the job site and ensure the proper fall protection equipment is being used. Consistent walkthroughs can reveal where employees are not following protocols, protection devices and equipment are not being appropriately used, or not being used at all.

At the job site, everyone plays a role in maintaining safe work areas. Supervisors need to ensure everyone is trained on their personal protective equipment and hazard awareness. Empower all your employees to identify hazards, notify management, and correct them when necessary. In multi-worksite projects, the general contractor should provide the same training to all the participating subcontractors and their employees.

By working together, establishing an effective training program, conducting a comprehensive JHA, instituting safety walkthroughs, and empowering our employees, we can do our part in reducing fatalities.

Each year during May, OSHA conducts a nationwide Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. The Safety Stand-Down is a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to employees about safety. Any workplace can hold a stand-down by taking a break to focus on “Fall Hazards” and reinforcing the importance of “Fall Prevention,” https://www.osha.gov/stop-falls-stand-down.

In support of this effort, The USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program in partnership with the USF OTI Education Center and the USF Sunshine ERC, has conducted two fall hazard awareness courses in English and Spanish on May 3rd and May 5th, respectively. USF SafetyFlorida regularly hosts OSHA outreach training to provide small employers and occupational health and safety professionals the resources needed to create safer workplaces. To register for FREE training, click here. Are you interested in receiving alerts on the latest OSHA regulatory updates and issues affecting industries like yours? Click here to subscribe to our monthly e-Letter. To request a no-cost, confidential consultation, visit https://www.tfaforms.com/4696809 today.

Gabriel Garcia, PCG, PCC, PCM
Safety Supervisor
USF SafetyFlorida Consultation Program