Falls remain one of the top reasons for injuries on construction sites, which in turn are one of the most dangerous types of workplaces in Massachusetts. In 2010, 264 out of 774 fatalities on construction sites were due to falls. Last month the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released a report that stated more construction workers had died from falls than any other kind of accident from 2007-2011. Tragically, many falls and fatalities could be prevented, if only employers planned for their prevention and trained their employees to be on the alert for safety issues.
Recently, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited a wood framing contractor for repeated and willful regulation violations. Willful violations are those in which an employer acts with knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements.
Violations related to workers’ exposure to serious falls from 9 feet up to 30 feet up. The total amount of the citation was $279,700.
OSHA Workers performing framing work were found exposed to falls ranging from 9 feet up to 30 feet due to missing or inadequate fall protection safeguards. The OSHA regulations mandate a personal fall arrest system, guardrails or safety nets for those workers who perform work at 6 or more feet off the ground. The citation was also given because ladders were misused and systems permitted workers to not fall more than six feet, hitting lower levels of the construction.
OSHA recommends the following steps of planning, providing and training in order to prevent falls in the workplace. The step of planning is more crucial than you might think. Responsible employers should include safety equipment in the estimate they submit to get a job. All necessary equipment and tools should be available at the work site, including fall protection specifically helpful to the type of work that will be done, such as a personal fall arrest system.
If appropriate planning and estimating has occurred, a responsible employer will provide the right equipment to workers. Fall protection, as well as the right ladders, scaffolds and safety gear, are critical for workers who are 6 or more feet up while performing construction work. Every worker who is going to be off the ground and needs to tie off to the anchor should have a harness.
Also, every worker should be trained. This is a critical step that employers skip, assuming that their workers are already trained or should have been trained by somebody else. However, this assumption is often false. Employers should train employees to spot hazards and use all equipment.
Last month, the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards’ 2012 Fall Prevention Outreach Program, a campaign to fight falls at construction sites, was recognized by an award from the federal OSHA Office of Small Business Assistance. As part of the campaign, consultants visited many Massachusetts worksites and presented several seminars on fall protection and OSHA’s fall protection requirements. The success of this program has led to a similar 2013 campaign to educate even more employers.
If you are injured because of a fall in the workplace, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact the experienced Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates for advice about your particular situation. Call us at 617-367-0880 or contact us via our online form.