The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor is a Federal agency responsible for collecting and analyzing many aspects of the labor market, including incidents of injuries and fatalities in the workplace. One of the statistics reported is that of worker fatalities. According to the BLS website, www.bls.gov, in calendar year 2018, approximately 19% of the worker fatalities in the private sector were in construction. The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls (33.5%), followed by transportation (24.8%), electrocution (17.2%), and being struck by objects (16.7%). These four causes were responsible for the vast majority (92.2%) of construction worker fatalities in 2018.
These statistics are not necessarily surprising given the most frequently cited standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The top cited standard is that of fall protection, with scaffolding as the third and ladders as the seventh. OSHA’s mission, according to their website, is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” Due to the prevalence of injuries and fatalities in the construction sector due to falls, OSHA has implemented a fall prevention campaign stating that lives can be saved by planning ahead, providing the right equipment, and training everyone to use the equipment safely.
Examples of safety equipment specifically designed to prevent falls include:
- Personal fall arrest systems
- Guardrail systems on scaffolding
- Lifelines and climbing systems
- Personnel netting
- Perimeter safety cables
- Controlled decking zones
OSHA has provided numerous materials and resources (https://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/) that employers can use, possibly as toolbox talks, to train workers on safe practices to avoid falls in construction. Falls from ladders, scaffolds, and roofs can be prevented and lives can be saved through three simple steps: Plan, Provide, and Train.