According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls are the leading cause of fatalities on construction sites, although they are entirely preventable. In New Jersey and across the country, 1,008 construction workers lost their lives in work-related accidents in 2018. Almost one-third of those workers, 320, died in falls to lower levels. In cooperation with other safety agencies, OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign aims to raise awareness of fall hazards and how to mitigate them.
Prevention of falls starts with the project planning process. Planners must identify each task to be done and the necessary safety equipment for each job. During cost estimation, safety equipment and all the necessary tools must be included. For example, for roof work, all the potential fall hazards like leading edges, skylights and other openings or holes must be considered, along with the protection to mitigate each hazard.
For any jobs at six feet or higher above the ground or other levels, fall risks exist. Considering that each fall could result in severe injuries or even death, employers must provide the necessary fall arrest systems for each worker — ensuring each worker’s fall harness fits properly. Furthermore, the correct tools for each job must be provided, along with the appropriate scaffolds, ladders and any other required safety gear, all inspected for safety before allocating them to workers.
It is crucial to provide each worker with the necessary safety training to set up and use the various safety equipment items. The importance and procedures of doing safety checks of safety gear at the start of each shift must form part of the safety training. Any damaged equipment or those with defects must be removed from service and replaced. Further essential safety training includes recognition and identifying potential hazards and how to mitigate them.
Although OSHA notes that construction site falls are preventable, they continue to occur. Construction workers in New Jersey may find comfort in knowing that the workers’ compensation system would cover medical expenses and lost wages in the event of a fall accident. If such an accident is fatal, the surviving family members will likely be entitled to claim death benefits to provide financial relief to cover end-of-life arrangements and other day-to-day expenses.