April 30, 2018
(VERNON, CT)- A 55-year-old woman was working in an apartment complex when she fell through an open hole to the second story just 10 feet below. She landed on concrete and sustained serious injuries. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died from the injuries she sustained during the fall. Goodwin was employed through a private contractor that had been hired by a construction company and didn’t see the open hole where the stairs were going to go.
OSHA is currently working with the Vernon Police Department and the building official to actively investigate the accident.
The Impact of Falls
Falls continue to be one of the most prevalent and fatal accidents in construction, dubbed as one of the “Fatal Four”. Construction’s “Fatal Four” are infamously the top four causes of worker death in the construction industry.
The other 3 of the “Fatal Four” are considered to be “struck-by objects”, “electrocutions”, and “caught-in/between”, with falls being the top cause of death in construction in 2016 (38.7% of construction fatalities).
That being said, fall protection and adequate fall protection training are not only OSHA mandated, but they’re imperative in potentially saving a worker’s life.
OSHA and Fall Prevention
Additionally, proper guarding of holes, edges, etc. are also OSHA mandated to prevent falls.
In order to provide adequate fall prevention, OSHA states that employers MUST:
- Guard every floor hole where a worker can potentially and accidentally fall through with the use of a railing and toeboard, or a floor hole cover.
- Provide a guardrail and toeboard around every open-sided platform, floor, or runway that is 4 feet or higher off the ground or next level.
- Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt), employers must provide guardrails and toeboards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
- Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and handrails
OSHA also mandates that employers:
- Maintain working conditions that provide adequate safety and are free from known dangers.
- Keep all floors and surfaces clean and clear from slip, trip, and fall hazards, and ensure that they are in sanitary condition.
- Conduct risk assessments to determine necessary personal protective equipment, and provide to employees at no cost.
National Safety Stand-Down
Ironically, Goodwin’s fatal fall comes just weeks before OSHA’s National Safety Stand-down, which is a week dedicated in May that encourages employers to have direct safety talks with employees about safety and safety measures in the workplace; focusing specifically on fall hazards and fall prevention.
The event is completely voluntary, and participation simply involves discussing fall prevention and fall hazards with employees at some point during the week of May 7-11, 2018.
Fall prevention discussions can come in the form of a safety meeting, safety toolbox talks, or any other sort of safety measure such as an equipment inspection, or safety assessment.
“OSHA is partnering with key groups to assist with this effort, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), OSHA approved State Plans, State consultation programs, the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the National Safety Council, the National Construction Safety Executives (NCSE), the U.S. Air Force, and the OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers” OSHA mentions on their website.
OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign
In addition to the Safety Stand-Down, OSHA has an entire website dedicated to fall prevention in Construction.
Here they encourage employers to follow these objectives when carrying out their fall prevention program:
- PLAN ahead to get the job done safely
- Thoroughly plan projects so workers can execute jobs safely
- Decide how jobs will be done
- Determine what tasks are involved and how they can be completed safely
- PROVIDE the right equipment
- Remember that falls from over 6 feet can cause serious injury and death
- Provide the right fall protection and equipment
- Including the correct ladders, scaffolding, and safety gear
- For roofing, provide adequate fall arrest systems
- Provide harnesses for workers who must tie off an anchor
- TRAIN everyone to use the safety equipment
- Most business insurance companies, risk management companies, and compliance firms require adequate employee training
- Every worker should be trained on proper equipment use and set up
- Employees should also be trained on how to assess safety hazards and prevention.
Fall Prevention Equipment Requirements
Outside of training and planning, fall protection equipment is a very large component of fall safety. These are the requirements for the fall protection equipment that is generally used:
- Personal Fall Arrest Systems– safety harnesses, vertical lifeline/lanyard, anchorage, connectors, horizontal lifeline
- Must be able to hold up to 1800 pounds
- Used for any work over 6 ft above surface
- Must be able to bring employee to a complete stop
- Have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of a worker free falling a distance of 6 feet, or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less
- Ladders– portable ladders, fixed ladders, self-supporting ladders
- Self-supporting ladders must be able to hold at least four times the maximum intent load
- Fixed ladders must be able to hold at least two loads 250 pounds
- Portable ladder not self-supporting must be able to hold at least four times intent load
- Ladder rungs, cleats, and steps should be parallel, level, and consistently spaced when the ladder is in use
- Rungs or steps of any ladder should be either corrugated, knurled, dimpled, coated with skid-resistant material, or otherwise treated to minimize slipping.
- Rungs should be shaped so that an employee’s foot can’t slip off
- Scaffolding– Supported scaffolding, suspended scaffolding
- Scaffolds, without failure, must be able to withstand at least 4 times the maximum intent load
- All employees working on a scaffold must be properly trained
- Only a qualified person must design the scaffolds, which are loaded in accordance with that design.
- Scaffolds and scaffold components must not be loaded over their maximum intent loads or rated capacities (whichever is less).
- Aerial Platforms– extendable boom platforms, aerial ladders, articulating (jointed) boom platforms, vertical towers
- All employees must trained prior to working on an aerial lift
- Aerial lifts must be thoroughly inspected before use
Goodwin’s tragic death is an example of a preventable construction fall accident. With falls being the most common cause of death in construction, it’s imperative that employer’s take necessary steps to ensure prevention.