Falls on Jobsites Leading Cause of Death in Industry

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More than one million workers are expected to participate in this year’s National Fall Safety Stand-Down.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has partnered with more than 25,000 businesses to help prevent falls in the construction industry.

Occurring this week, the National Safety Stand-Down is a campaign to focus on preventing fatalities from falls.

Throughout the week, employers and workers will pause during their workday to focus on hazards of falls and preventing them. Stand-downs have been planned in all 50 states.

Stand-Down participants are encouraged to share their experiences on Twitter by using #StandDown4Safety and tagging @USDOL.

“Falls cause immense pain and suffering when they happen, and we must do everything we can to stop them,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The good news is that they are preventable with three easy steps: the best protection is to plan ahead, ensure workers have the right equipment and train each worker to use it.”

According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, with hundreds of workers dying each year and thousands more facing serious injuries.

Lack of fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA violation.

According to OSHA, for fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2012, landscaping services had a total of 44 deaths from falls, which is 29.3 percent of deaths in the industry. Of the 44 landscapers who died from a fall, 27 fell from a tree (61.3 percent died from falls and 16.9 percent died in landscaping services) and 11 died from lift work (25 percent died from falls and 6.9 percent died in landscaping services).

Serious injuries can result from even short-distance falls, and falling from a height of 11 feet gives you only a 50 percent chance of survival, according to the National Safety Council.

Falling is dangerous in all capacities, especially when using ladders. Here are a few tips to use on your next jobsite:

RELATED: Risks of Tree Work

Before use: 

  • Make sure you are trained in ladder safety. Your employer should provide this training.
  • Carefully inspect the ladder for damage.
  • Ensure the ladder is free of slippery substances on the rungs and feet. Before mounting the ladder, clean muddy or slippery shoe soles. • Reject damaged ladders; tag and remove them from service.
  • Use a ladder with the correct strength, type and length for your task
  • Get help when handling a heavy or long ladder
  • Keep ladders away from electrical wires
  • Place the ladder on a firm, level surface. Use a ladder with slip-resistant feet or secure blocking, or have someone hold it.
  • Rest both side rails on the top support.
  • Tie off ladders at the top to prevent slipping.
  • Set up barricades and warning signs when using a ladder in a doorway or passageway.

Screen Shot 2014 06 03 At 11 24 16 AmWhen in use:

  • Always face the ladder when climbing or working from it.
  • Keep the center of your body within the side rails.
  • A ladder should not be placed horizontally as a scaffold or runway.
  • Do not carry objects in your hands. Hoist materials and attach tools to a belt.
  • Do not work from the top three rungs.
  • Do not use a portable ladder if you have the option of a fixed stairway or scaffold.
  • Do not join two short ladders to make a long ladder.
  • Do not paint wooden ladders. Paint may hide defects. Instead, use wood preservatives or clear coatings.
  • Do not use a ladder during windy weather.
  • Never move a ladder while someone is on it.
  • Lower the top section of an extension ladder before you move it.
  • Keep ladders at least 10 feet from overhead electrical lines and other obstructions. Aluminum, and even wet or dirty wood or fiberglass ladders, can conduct electricity.

The Three-Point Rule
Always maintain three-point contact by having two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, on the ladder at all times. Keep your body centered on the steps, and always face the ladder.

Additional Resources:

Preventing Ladder Falls

Toolbox Talk: Ladder Safety

Falling Off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safely

Fall Prevention – Fact Sheet

NIOSH Ladder Safety app

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
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