At the end of each fiscal year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases a list of the top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations. These violations are reported following inspections of workplaces.
For the past 5 years fall protection has reigned as the most common violation on the list. Interestingly enough, before 2010 the most frequently reported violations repeatedly came from inadequate scaffolding requirements. These implied that a scaffold was at a high risk of failing to protect workers from falls or falling objects.
In this year's report, OSHA cited 6,173 "serious"� fall protection violations. This indicates the number of individual violations in which there are substantial probabilities that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known, of the hazard. These "serious"� violations make up 83% of the total number of fall protection violations reported for the year. Most of them involved residential construction, unprotected sides and edges, roofing work on low-slope roofs, steep roofs, and protection from falling through holes. Additionally, scaffolding violations rank third most frequent this year, and yet 25% of total reports involved employee fall protection or an inadequate fall arrest or guardrail system on unspecified scaffolds.
Why does OSHA focus on fall prevention? In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 793 fatal and 261,920 non-fatal occupational injuries resulting from an employee falling on the same level or to a lower level surface. Employees who experienced non-fatal injuries spent an average of 14 days away from work. These occurrences alone contributed to 17% of total fatal injuries and 23% of total non-fatal injuries for the year.
How can you prevent fall-related incidents? OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in long shoring operations. Additionally, fall protection must be provided when working over any dangerous equipment or machinery.
Here are OSHA's guidelines for employers to reduce the risk of workers being injured from falls:
Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor-hole cover).
Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor, or runway.
Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.
Additionally, OSHA requires employers to take these basic safety precautions:
Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.
If you want to learn more about how you can protect your workers from falls, or create a safer work environment that is compliant with OSHA guidelines, contact an Arbill Safety Expert by calling 800-523-5367 or visiting our website at Arbill.com.