Falls are consistently ranked as the leading cause of workplace injuries and death on commercial construction sites every year. According to a 2018 OSHA study, falls actually account for up to one-third of all deaths that occur on the job. Because accidental falls are common, inadequate fall protection is consistently on the list of top OSHA violations year after year. In order to ensure your workers are safe and your company is meeting compliance standards, it’s essential for general contractors, subcontractors, and clients to all prioritize fall prevention procedures as part of their regular safety programs.
Fall prevention and fall protection are terms used to describe policies and procedures that aim to eliminate or minimize the impact of fall-related accidents on commercial construction job sites. Fall prevention usually involves safety training as well as on-site controls such as scaffolding, guardrails, and bumpers, while fall protection involves properly wearing approved personal protective equipment. Both fall prevention and fall protection play a critical role in every subcontractor’s safety program.
In order to keep both working effectively, and to decrease the number of workplace accidents, below are five tips that can help your company reduce fall risks on commercial construction job sites.
1. Constantly Evaluate Your Job Site
Evaluating your surroundings should always be the first step in any fall prevention plan. Safety managers should examine every aspect of the job site – ladders, scaffolding, and guardrails – and all need to be evaluated and documented.
Remember, not all fall injuries occur from large heights. Slips and trips can also be categorized as falls, so it’s important to watch out for muddy conditions and oil spills on the ground and stairs as well. Pay close attention to changes in slope, areas that may require a step up, or muddy conditions that may result in slips.
2. Document A Fall Prevention Plan
Every commercial construction safety manager is responsible for identifying and evaluating fall risks on commercial construction sites. Those details, along with your company’s policies, should be thoroughly documented in a formal fall protection plan. Your plan should serve as a comprehensive guide to workplace hazards as well as all the rules and requirements listed in your safety policy. This plan should always be accessible to all workers and reviewed during daily safety meetings.
3. Perform Frequent Walkthroughs
As part of a good fall prevention plan, commercial construction safety managers and shift supervisors should conduct daily walkthroughs of the job site every morning to evaluate the fall prevention controls and evaluate potential hazards. They should check to ensure all scaffolding and guardrails are properly positioned and in working condition. Employee personal protective equipment should also be inspected and replaced if needed. After the workday has started, secondary walkthroughs should be done to ensure employees are following procedures and wearing the proper fall prevention equipment.
4. Hold Regular Trainings And Daily Check-ins
Regular trainings are an essential part of commercial construction safety, so be sure fall prevention strategies are a primary topic of discussion. Fall prevention should also be incorporated into daily safety check-ins and toolbox talks. Use your daily meetings to address topics like scaffolding safety, ladder safety, and proper use of personal protective equipment. Communication is key when it comes to reinforcing employee safety, so be sure to make fall risks a consistent topic within your safety meeting framework.
5. Regularly Inspect Your Equipment
Ensuring that your employee’s fall protective equipment is in good shape is also critical to preventing commercial construction injuries. Fall arrest systems should be tested and inspected before each use including all stitching, hooks, and strands. Any damaged PPE should be promptly removed from the job site. A professional, formal inspection of all PPE should also be completed every 6 months.
In addition to verifying that equipment is in good working order, it’s also essential for safety managers to ensure that the right equipment is being used for the job. Depending on the complexity of commercial construction projects, different types of fall prevention equipment may be required. Beamers, rope-grabs, butterfly anchors, and beam straps are all examples of fall prevention equipment. Safety managers should work closely with job supervisors to ensure the right equipment is being used on site.
Falls pose a major safety risk to workers on commercial construction sites, which is why regular training, planning, and inspection should all be part of your safety program. Every subcontractor should make it a point to go above and beyond industry standards to not only keep their employees safe, but also protect the reputation of their general contractors.
At Unique Building Group, we’re a team of safety-focused commercial construction subcontractors with more than 30 years of experience delivering high-quality results. From interior drywall to exterior specialty finishes, we’d be happy to support your project. Contact us today.