Falls are the number one cause of death in construction, and almost one third of fall fatalities in the industry, overall, happen on the residential construction side. It’s those kinds of statistics that make you wonder if the industry will catch up with the need for better safety compliance and inspections processes. As inspection software aficionados, we’re hoping it can.
The stats come from a story in Business Insurance this week on changes to fall protection rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In case you haven’t heard, OSHA says employers in the residential construction industry must now comply with fall protection methods used by the commercial construction industry. The directive, which took effect in June, effectively does away with some alternative fall protection options that were previously enjoyed on the residential side of the business. Residential construction must now look at fall protection procedures that include guardrails, safety nets, full body harnesses, scaffolds, ladders, aerial lifts, and even forklifts. (In a separate summary, Business Insurance lists some examples of acceptable fall protection systems here.)
“Gone are the special alternative procedures allowed under the old directive for certain residential construction activities.”
– David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA (from Business Insurance)
We found it interesting that article also points out that residential construction contractors investing more in safety systems (such as guardrails, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems) will likely see pay off in the form of lower workers compensation insurance premiums and the prevention of a job shutdown or fatality. When you consider that a single safety gear item might cost a couple hundred dollars for one worker, but violations can result in tens of thousands in fines or other costs, the argument for better safety management just makes sense.
Last week, we wrote about the results of a safety inspection blitz by the Government of Alberta, which found fall protection failures to be a leading source of safety violations and stop work orders among the 600 site safety checks performed. And it came as no surprise to us when fall protection topped OSHA’s list of the Top 10 most-cited safety violations at the NSC Congress and Expo this month. With more than 7,139 recorded violations, fall protection is clearly on OSHA’s agenda and deserves to be at the top of any safety manager’s list of priorities.
For the record, the full list of OSHA’s Top 10 violations this year is included below:
1. Fall protection – 7,139 violations
2. Scaffolding – 7,069 violations
3. Hazard Communication – 6,538 violations
4. Respiratory Protection – 3,944 violations
5. Lockout/Tagout – 3,639 violations
6. Electrical (Wiring) – 3,584 violations
7. Powered Industrial Trucks – 3,432 violations
8. Ladders – 3,244 violations
9. Electrical – 2,863 violations
10. Machine Guarding – 2,556 violations