Curtailing Construction’s Fatal Four – What you need to know about falls from height

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The “Fatal Four” of construction are falls, electrocutions, workers being caught in or between objects, and worker being struck by objects. In the United States, these hazards consistently account for over 50% of construction worker deaths annually. This translates into the deaths of over 899 workers on a yearly basis. In our four part blog post series, we will examine each hazard and highlight the steps companies are taking to not only ensure compliance with workplace legislation but create a proactive, performance-driven culture to transform their organization.

Falls Are the Deadliest of All

Of the Fatal Four, falls are the most deadly, accounting for 36% of all construction-related deaths in the United States. In 2014, falls from heights killed 39 people in Britain, making falls responsible for three out of every ten worker fatalities. In Canada, over 42,000 people are injured from falls every year, accounting for 17% of workplace-related injuries.  For construction firms hoping to improve safety efforts, mitigating fall hazards would be the best place to begin.

Fall hazards could be anything within a workplace that could cause a worker to lose their balance and fall. Walking or working surface can also be a potential fall hazard. OSHA has identified that anyone working at a height of four feet is at risk of a serious fall injury. Employers have the legal responsibility of ensuring that guardrails and safety net systems and full-body harnesses are used whenever an employee is working from a height of six feet and above.

These measures are just the beginning—there’s a significant difference between compliance and best practice. Compliance is doing the minimum required by law and regulators. Best practices exceed the minimum requirements and provides the best solution for your circumstances. A good place to start when putting best practices into place is helping senior management see the cost savings that can result from implementing proper fall protections. These include less downtime, less overtime, and lower insurance premiums. Pace Industries, a leading manufacturer, saved $1.2 million in Workers’ Compensation only a year after implementing a Safety Management Software solution.

At the compliance level, where companies are still working to meet basic regulatory standards, firms are likely still wrestling with the idea of safety as a cost-saving measure. The sooner construction companies recognize the benefits of compliance, the sooner they can begin positioning themselves to reap the benefits associated with more proactive, preventative activities to manage safety.

The Bigger Picture—Where Revenue Meets Reputation

In addition to avoiding federal fines and loss of life, complying with regulations and taking a proactive approach to safety will safeguard your organization’s goodwill. This metric has a direct impact on your organization’s ability to attract and retain customers. This is because the action or inaction of a contracted company can severely affect the reputation of the firm that hired them. It is easy to imagine a case wherein the injury or death of construction workers negatively affects the brand of the firm they are building for.

For more information on best practices around fall protection, check out this webinar from Intelex Community members Doug Myette and Michelle Roth. Next time, we’ll take a look at electrocutions.

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