“I was one of those kids who hated heights. The funny thing, that didn’t keep from going up high with my friends and family – I still went on hikes and rollercoaster rides. But it did give me a respect for the heights themselves and the reality of what would happen if I fell. 

I still have that awareness of the dangerous as an adult. Whenever I read about someone who plummeted to their death after doing something like walking too close to a ledge or a steep cliff, all I can think is that if they were really aware of the kind of danger they were in, they might still be alive.”

Falls Can Cause Serious Injury and Death

If you exclude highway collisions, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks falls as the leading cause of death in the private industry. Fall-related accidents are also prevalent in the construction industry, with nearly 40% of workplace deaths in construction resulting from them, making them one of OSHA’s Fatal Four.

Of course, not all falls are deadly. Non-fatal fall-related injuries are also very common in the workplace and can cause serious harm. Some of the serious injuries that can result from falls from height include:

  • Sprains, strains, or pulled muscles
  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding
  • Head and brain injuries
  • Neck and spine injuries

Risk Factors for Falls

There are a number of factors that can contribute to a fall, such as:

  • Poorly secured ladders
  • Poor lighting or glare
  • Loud, startling noises
  • Improper signage
  • Intoxication
  • Physical impairments
  • Distraction or overconfidence

If this list seems long, remember that it is only a fraction of the hazards that could be responsible for a fall.

How to Avoid Falls

Be Aware of the Risks

One of the best ways to avoid falls is to be conscious of your surroundings at all times.

It can be hard to catch ourselves being overconfident, but it plays a significant role in a lot of falls. If you’ve been on the job a long time and haven’t experienced a fall yet, it’s easy to start downplaying the risks. But remember that those risks are still very much present. And even if you can sometimes manage to work unsafely without getting hurt, it’s only a matter of time before you do.

Inspect and Use Your Fall Protection Gear

It’s also important to take your fall protection equipment seriously. Use your personal fall arrest system whenever working at heights, even if it’s only for a brief moment. Inspect every component before donning it and going up to make sure it’s in good shape. Take the time to connect to a proper anchor point.

Remember, your fall protection equipment will only arrest a fall if it’s used and worn properly.

Check the Fall Safety Systems

There are other control measures to keep you safe, as well. Guardrails will keep you from getting too close to leading edges. Safety nets will be your very last line of defense if you do fall. Rope and flag systems are in place to demarcate the high risk zones that should be avoided while working.

If you notice that any of these are missing, not installed properly, or appear to be damaged, report it immediately to your supervisor. It might seem like a minor issue, but when those safety measures are needed, you’ll be glad they’re in working as intended.

Take Part in OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down

Every May, managers and safety professionals across the country participate in OSHA’s National Safety-Stand Down. It’s an event meant to focus attention on fall protection in the construction industry. Consider participating, getting your workers involved, and using it as an opportunity to remind your workers about the importance of fall safety.

The National Safety Council encourages all managers to participate in the National Safety Stand-Down in whichever way best suits them and their workers. This can include:

  • Playing a safety video
  • Developing a rescue plan
  • Conducting a walkaround with employees
  • Having a safety moment or toolbox talk focusing on ladder, scaffold, or roof safety
  • Holding a fall protection training session