Myths and facts about falls in residential construction
Myth 1: Residential contractors don’t get injured as badly as commercial construction workers.
FACT: Half of all construction workers who have fallen to their death in Massachusetts worked in residential construction.
A 30-year-old roofer was rolling tar paper on a new pitch roof of a 2-story Cape when he backed off the edge. He fell 24 feet to his death, and left behind a wife and children.
Myth 2: You have to fall a long distance to kill yourself.
FACT: If you hit your head hard enough, you can die from any height. Half the construction workers who died in a fall fell from a height of 25 feet or less. Even if you survive a fall, you may be laid up for some time with a disability.
A 68-year-old painter died after falling 10 feet from a small front porch of a 2-story home. The painter fell when he climbed down a step ladder and leaned into a rotted porch railing. He had painted homes for over 40 years.
Myth 3: Experienced workers don’t fall.
FACT: The average age of construction workers who have fallen to their death was 43. These men had many years of experience.
“It just happens so fast. It’s when you think you’re safe that you need to be more careful.” —Gene, Homebuilder
Myth 4: Fall protection equipment is more of a hindrance than a help.
FACT: Nothing is more of a hindrance than a lifetime disability. Fall protection equipment is continually improving. Retractable lifelines allow for maximum flexibility. Roof anchors can be nailed into the structural members of wooden roofs.
Myth 5: Working safely is costly.
FACT: Some equipment isn’t costly, such as ladder stabilizers, guardrail holders, and fall protection kits. Other items such as scaffolds are more expensive. Invest in this equipment, just as you would a quality tool.
“I fell 3 stories and was out of work for 8 weeks. I was subcontracting and didn’t have comp. This was a long time ago, but I probably lost around $5,000. A harness would have cost me $50 back then.” —Dan, General Contractor
FACT: Falls Can Be Prevented
On-site Consultation Program
Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards
OSHA Regional Office
JFK Federal Building- Room E340
Boston, MA 02203