Why falls remain a deadly problem in the construction sector and what we can do about it
A NIOSH Science Blog post
By Alissa Zingman, M.D.; Christine M. Branche, Ph.D., FACE; CDR Elizabeth P. Garza, MPH, CPH
Standing on rooftops and rebar are facts of life in the construction industry, but fatal falls from these heights do not have to be. In the United States each year, 10,000 construction workers are seriously injured from falls at the worksite (1). In 2015 alone, 350 construction workers perished due to falls, accounting for nearly 40% of all construction sector fatalities (2). Perhaps not surprisingly, failure to meet OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard was the most common citation in that same year (1). Non-fatal falls can also cause serious injury. About 10,000 workers sustain injuries in nonfatal falls each year. Injured workers may require surgeries and hospitalizations and they may miss work time and lose pay. Additionally, workers’ families and communities are impacted when they are unable to work, to play with their children, or to help their aging parents.
Hearing loss has been shown to be a risk factor for falls, where hearing deficits may diminish one’s awareness of their overall environment thus making falling and tripping more likely (4). Dangerous noise is common to construction sites, and one in four construction workers who are exposed to noise experience hearing loss (3). Because of the problem of hearing loss, this year it has been added to the construction falls prevention campaign, during which NIOSH, OSHA, and the NORA Construction Sector Council team up to take action. The construction falls prevention campaign, now in its sixth year, draws attention to fall protection and prevention in the United States. The fourth National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, which is linked to the campaign, will be May 8-12, 2017. This year’s efforts will include information on hearing protection.
The Stand-Down takes its cue from the military, in which operations stop, or “stand down,” when a critical safety problem is identified. The National Safety Stand-Down is a voluntary event in which employers stop work and meet with employees to discuss safety. Educational materials are available from CPWR—The Center for Construction Research and Training and other partners at www.stopconstructionfalls.com, and from OSHA, including OSHA’s fall prevention training (1). NIOSH’s ladder safety app and sound level meter app are available for free download. Additional relevant information is available on the NIOSH Falls in the Workplace Topic Page.
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