Data provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a division of the US Department of Labor, shows that out of 1,008 construction worker fatalities in 2020, 351 resulted from fatal falls to a lower level, making falls the leading cause of construction worker fatalities. However, OSHA stresses, “These deaths are preventable.”
In a recent webinar described by Construction Dive, industry leaders offered their own thoughts on how to prevent fall-related deaths. While there is no “‘one-size’ approach,” as the vice president of safety at Buckeye Partners said, a layered strategy will help keep the industry’s workers safe. These included “updated fall protection and restraints standards, including requirements for self-retracting lanyards,” which are already set to be implemented this summer.
Equipment manufacturers are required by new standards for self-retracting devices to “increase the strength of their devices by at least 20%,” introducing newer equipment as the older equipment loses its efficacy. One speaker in the webinar, the vice president of operations at Reliance Fall Protection, said that construction companies should inspect products manufactured domestically as well as products manufactured abroad to ensure they comply with these updated standards, arguing that it’s important to maintain relationships with manufacturers and seek their own compliance data.
While the use of personal protective equipment is an essential safety measure, according to speakers in the webinar, the “first line of defense” should be a more holistic incident prevention strategy that includes “hazard elimination,” “substitution,” “engineering controls,” and “administrative controls” before PPE. “Just being tied off doesn’t mean we’re not going to get hurt or fall,” one speaker said of why it’s important not to be dependent on PPE. “So we really need to take a look at all the variables that are involved here.”
More information on the construction industry’s approach to preventing falls and fall-related deaths is available via Construction Dive.