The Need for Fall Protection

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2018

The death of an employee who fell two stories to his death at a Massachusetts construction site might have been prevented if his employer had supplied the required fall protection, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Federal fines for "repeat, willful or serious" violations are more substantial than those issued for other offenses. For example, a stucco contractor's failure to protect employees from fall hazards resulted in citations and penalties of $156,000.

For more than a year, OSHA observed the contractors' work sites around Long Island, N.Y. The company was cited for not having sufficient planks on scaffolds, not having ladders to reach working levels, not giving workers hard hats, and not providing guardrails or personal fall arrest systems.

The citations were issued for "willful, serious and repeat violations." A "willful" citation is for violations committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference to the law. "Repeat" citations are issued for violations that an employer has been cited for previously. "Serious" violations occur when there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result.

Click here to read an OSHA publication called "Fall Protection in Construction"

As a result, the general contractor on the construction of a new college dormitory faced $46,200 in fines for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The fatality occurred when a crew of laborers was dismantling a temporary work platform on the second floor level of an unfinished stairwell. One man fell through the partially dismantled platform.

OSHA's inspectors found the employer did not provide adequate protection for its workers -- exposing them to falls of almost 26 feet from the work platform. The employees were also not instructed to recognize and avoid such hazards.

Federal fall protection regulations. Under OSHA regulations, you must protect workers who could fall six or more feet. Construction companies and other employers must make sure that the surfaces that employees walk on have the necessary strength and structural integrity to support them safely.

When there's a chance of a fall of six feet or more, OSHA regulations call for the following:

Systems for guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest devices (for example, a safety belt) to protect employees from falling from a walking or working surface with an unprotected side or edge.

Guardrails or personal fall arrest systems for each employee in a hoist area. The employee must have a personal fall arrest system if the guardrail systems - or portions of it - are removed to aid the hoisting operation and the employee must lean through the access opening.

Personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems around holes that employees could fall through.

Guardrail systems, fences or barricades at the edge of excavations, including those with obstructed views, for example, when trees are in front of them.

The situations described above are not a comprehensive list. OSHA regulations specify that unless regulations stipulate otherwise, fall protection must be provided anywhere that a fall of six feet or greater could occur.

Protection is also needed against falling objects. In addition to personal falls to lower levels, OSHA fall protection regulations also address the hazard of falling objects.

When your workforce is exposed to falling objects, you must have each employee wear a hard hat and must implement one of the following measures:

Erect toeboards, screens, or guardrail systems to prevent objects from falling from higher levels.

Erect a canopy structure and keep potential fall objects far enough from the edge of the higher level so that the objects will not go over the edge if they are accidentally displaced.

the area that objects could fall on, prohibit employees from entering the barricaded area, and keep objects that may fall away from the edge of a higher level so that the objects will not drop if they are accidentally displaced.

Keep abreast of changes in fall protection regulations because OSHA may make revisions to its rules.

Posted in Construction Industry

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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