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Fall protection on worksites a big safety issue, for both employers and employees

Fall protection is a big issue in the construction industry, both in terms of the risk for workers and the liability companies can face for failing to abide by safety rules. An example of this is a case involving a roofing contractor based in Syracuse which reportedly owes $96,000 in fines to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for multiple safety violations.

The company was, according to the federal agency, guilty of repeated safety violations, particularly related to fall protection. Failure to enforce the use of safety harnesses and to use ladders that meet stability rules were among the alleged violations. The fact that the company was a repeat offender for the safety standards resulted in heightened attention from OSHA, which routinely targets such “recalcitrant” employers with additional inspections. 

Falls on a construction site can result in severe injury and death, making them particularly concerning from a workplace safety standpoint. Employers are required, under federal regulations, to take steps to prevent falls from overhead platforms and elevated work stations. Holes in floors and walls are also supposed to be given special attention. Any construction sites with areas of an elevation of six feet or more require fall protection. When a work area is located over dangerous equipment and machinery, fall protection must always be provided, regardless of the height.

For floors holes, employers can use things like railing and toe boards or covers, while elevated work areas and runways can be stocked with guard rails and toe boards. Certain other work areas may require safety harnesses, nets, stair railing and hand rails. OSHA also requires employers to ensure work sites are free of known dangers, that work areas are clean and dry, as much as possible, that appropriate personal protective equipment is provided to workers, and that workers are properly trained about job hazards.

In our next post, we’ll take a look at what recourse an injured construction worker has when he or she is injured on an unsafe job site.

Source: United States Department of Labor, Safety and Health Topics: Fall Protection, Accessed Oct. 11, 2016. 

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