As the country continues its economic recovery and construction businesses enter the peak season, the resulting flurry of projects should also remind us that construction is the deadliest industry in the country. A worker may be stepping onto a ladder, scaffold or roof right now, and without the right planning, equipment and training, that worker may be putting his or her life at risk. For this reason, falls are the deadliest hazard in the construction industry.
Too many workers continue to plummet from a towering scaffold, a roof or precarious ladders due to a lack of supervision or provision of safeguards. The numbers are glaring: in 2010, more than 250 workers lost their lives in falls on construction sites, while more than 10,000 were seriously injured. At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we have answered the call to prevent any more needless deaths with our nationwide education and outreach campaign to prevent falls in the construction industry. It’s my firm conviction that each and every one of these falls is preventable.
And the costs of falls in the construction industry are alarming. Falls from heights cause not only physical and emotional hardships for workers and their families, but can each cost well over $100,000 in lost wages and medical costs.
Working from heights is inherently dangerous, but protecting workers from falls is feasible and effective. OSHA’s fall prevention campaign is spreading awareness about how to prevent construction falls. There are three simple steps that workers and employers can take:
- Plan ahead to get the job done safely.
- Provide the right equipment.
- Train everyone to use the equipment safely.
OSHA has created a new fall prevention Web site, with resources in English and Spanish that include a poster, fact sheet and a webpage on construction hazards including fall prevention that will give you the tools you need to ensure that any construction work at heights is done safely. You can also find OSHA’s constructions standards, where you can learn about OSHA required protections for workers in various construction-related jobs.
By sharing this life-saving information, we can save lives. We can make real the promise that all workers deserve to come home safely at the end of a shift.
Dr. David Michaels is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.