The construction industry is a great employer of many people in the U.S. and throughout the world generally. There are various types of construction works including: buildings, roads, rail lines, sports infrastructure among others. Through construction, there are possibilities of people getting injured, becoming sick or losing their lives as a result of a given process or duty that they do. Many people are injured or die because they are struck by objects, stuck in between objects, electrocuted, fall from heights, exposed to harmful substances, accidents when transporting materials, etc. (Hallowell & Gambatese, 2009 ). This essay will focus on the causes of and preventive measures for falls from scaffold in the construction industry. Falls are among the four main causes of fatalities in the construction sector, along with caught in or between, struck by object and electrocution.
Causes of falls from Ladders
Falls from scaffolds are part of the general fall from heights in the construction company. Several factors contribute to workers falling from heights, scaffold included, during construction works. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administrative (OSHA) guidelines about fall hazards, any working levels of four or more feet above the ground level are a potential for from height hazard (OSHA, 2011). Sometimes, scaffolds can be so long and one may go well beyond four feet, putting them at risk of injuries when they fall. Some of the causative factors that contribute to fall from heights include:
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The workers jumping from scaffold which may result in dislocation to very serious injuries when they land awkwardly.
Poorly constructed scaffolds collapsing under the weights of the workers, materials or both.
People who do not wear protective material yet they work several feet above the ground, especially those who alter positions such as from scaffolds to ladders, roofs, etc.
Risky materials and equipment placed directly below the scaffolds such that they can injure them when they fall
According the data by OSHA (2011), more than one-third fatalities (34%) in the construction sector were as a result of falls in 2009. Construction workers are at a huge risk of fatal falls in the private industry; they contribute to 48% of fatal falls in the private sector. When narrowed to particular type of fall, the falls from scaffolds contributed to 18% fatal falls, 33% from falls from roofs, 16% form ladders, 8% from girders and structural steel and 25% through floor and roof opening. 18% of the total scaffold falls is a big number given the large number of people who are injured or lose their lives because of falls in general. Scaffold falls are one of the major health hazards in both public and private construction industries.
Proven Protective Measures
Scaffold falls are a major contributor to fatalities in the construction sector and there is need for both the workers and the firms they work for to look consider preventive measures when using them. OSHA recommends three preventive measures for workers who work at heights beyond six meters during construction. The three measures are: the use of guard rails, use of personal fall arrests and use of the safety net systems. Guard rails are fall preventive systems whereas the remaining two are fall protective system; according to OSHA (2011). Construction firms can work on using guard rails to reinforce the scaffolds so that they do not collapse during working times and cause injuries and fatalities. Alternatively, the firms can use Rapid demountable platform (RDP) to help reduce falls that are as a result of scaffold falls (Cheung & Chan, 2012). RDPs can be used in very high structures and they are considered to be safer than scaffolds.
The construction firms can also provide personal fall arrests for workers who are required to use scaffolds that are so high above the ground. Fall arrests or body belts help in holding workers in case they fall of the scaffolds or the scaffolds give in to their weights and that of the materials and equipment placed atop the scaffolds. Use of safety net system can be employed by construction firms to help break the fall. Safety nets are placed in between the worker and the ground; a few meters below the worker such that when they fall, there is little impact on the net and its supporters. Is placed to low, the impact might be too much that the net or the supporters end up breaking and the person falls to the ground, injuring themselves in the process or even losing their lives.
The employers need to provide educational guidelines for the workers so that they able to understand the risks of fall hazards at the work sites know how to use the preventive and protective devices and be able to recognize defaults in the equipment. It is the duty of the employer to offer educational sessions to the employees who are required to attend them so that they acquire skills and knowledge required to use the equipment such as recommended maximum weights when using personal fall arrest systems.
Scaffold falls are hazardous as they may result is serious injuries and are at times fatal to the workers. Some of the risk factors include: collapsing guard rails, excessive weights placed on the scaffolds, workers jumping from the scaffolds and workers who do not use protective materials. The employer and workers need to work together to prevent the workers from scaffold falls and protect them in case they fall. Such protection methods are: using guard rails, fall arrests and safety net systems. RDPs can be used where people have to work at very high heights above the ground level.
Cheung, E., & Chan, A.P. (2012). Rapid demountable platform (RDP) – A device for preventing fall from height accidents. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 48, 235-245.
Hallowell, M. R., & Gambatese, J. A., (2009). Activity-based safety risk quantification for concrete formwork construction. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 135 (10), 990-998
OSHA. (2011). Construction Focus Four: Fall Hazards. Instructor Guide . Retrieved December 20, 2016 at: https://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction/focus_four/falls/falls_ig.pdf