Falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities in the construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Fall protection systems can make a huge difference in reducing fatalities as well as serious work-related fall injuries.
Although these systems are widely available, some employers fail to provide their workers with adequate fall protection and/or the proper training needed to use these systems effectively. New advances in fall protection are making it easier for employers to give workers the essential tools and skills they need for staying safe on the jobsite.
Fall protection prevents injury to individuals working at great heights, near the edge of a trench or hole, or on a steep grade. There are two main types of fall protection systems:
In some cases, employers may be able to practice fall elimination, which involves finding ways for employees to complete job tasks without working at heights or near edges. Employers may also use safety observers or other means to prevent workers from approaching areas in which they may fall.
Up until about 30 years ago, waist belts were the primary technology used for fall protection. Body harnesses with shock-absorbing lanyards began replacing waist belts in the 1990s, marking a significant advance in fall protection technology. The introduction of self-retracting lifelines and rescue devices have also improved fall protection options.
More recently, belts and harnesses have also evolved to withstand extreme heat and cold. In addition, there is much more awareness in the construction industry about the importance of anchor points that are engineered for higher durability. Anchor points rated at 5,000 pounds are available to connect the lanyards, lifelines, and other forms of tie-offs from a worker’s PFAS to a roof or other stable structure.
Today, high-tech is enabling another huge leap in the effectiveness of fall prevention and fall arrest systems. The latest advances in fall protection include the following:
One of the most exciting of these advances is the use of virtual reality simulation for fall protection training. Virtual reality games place the individual in a hazardous construction jobsite setting, such as a high-rise building or overlooking a trench, and simulate what happens when they fall.
Other virtual reality apps train workers on wearing and inspecting harnesses in just a few minutes. For example, the Harness Hero app helps reinforce basic training on fall protection, including anchors, belts, and connections. The app teaches workers how to select a proper anchor point and inspect their equipment. These tools are engaging and can help employees learn safety skills quickly.
The Apple Watch and other wearable devices have been adapted by some employers in the construction industry to monitor the status and location of workers performing tasks in high-risk areas. The Apple Watch has GPS and fall protection features than can be set to alert construction site managers if a worker falls. Apps that monitor vital signs can be used to detect if an individual working at heights should come down because they are experiencing a medical problem.
Employers now have fewer excuses for failing to implement fall protection systems. In addition, the OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) publish fall protection guidelines and policies. Skipping over fall protection may result in fines and other penalties.
The OSHA’s fall protection requirements include but are not limited to the following:
In addition, the ANSI recommends that employers assign a fall protection program administrator who has a thorough understanding of fall hazards and how to control them. Employers should also train new hires on fall hazards and inspect their fall protection systems.
The bottom line is that employers must follow standards when planning and implementing fall protection and training. Failure to do so may result in unnecessary injuries to their workers.
Despite the availability of fall protection systems, work-related fall injuries continue to occur for a number of reasons, including the following:
Workers should contact a lawyer if they are injured in a fall for the following reasons:
Many times, a worker’s carelessness is cited for the reason why a fall occurred. In reality, falls often happen due to a lack of fall protection or training, or the negligence of a manufacturer or property owner.
Galfand Berger LLP has been representing injured workers for more than 70 years. Examples of results we have obtained for our clients include the following:
We are proud of the many recoveries we have obtained for our clients over the years, helping to address the medical and financial consequences of experiencing a serious work-related fall injury.
Galfand Berger LLP has been a voice for injured workers since 1947. If you have been injured in a fall accident at work, do not hesitate to contact our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Complete our online form or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg, from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.