The Many Types of Construction Falls and How to Prevent Them

By Neil Kalra

The single biggest killer of construction workers is falls. According to the BLS – Bureau of Labor Statistics (through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA) – since 2017, between 35 and 40 percent of all construction-related fatalities were attributed to a fall: from heights without protected sides, hoist areas, holes in floors, excavations, slips/falls on ramps and walkways; and scaffolding mishaps.

The Three Types of Workplace Falls

Generally, there are three types: single level falls, falls from heights, and swing falls.

Single Level Falls

These happen when a worker remains on a single working level. Most cam be categorized as “slips and falls” or “slips and trips.” Trips result from uneven footways, have curved surfaces, or there’s a barrier: usually a fixture or equipment. Slips on the other hand happen when materials coat the foot surface like ice or grease. Worn footwear, or footwear tread that is not matched to the surface can also cause a slip.

The solution for slips/trips and falls is often merely good safety management: keeping clear pathways, immediately cleaning surfaces of spills or using correct footwear tread. But these safety management controls alone aren’t always effective. This is where additional measures must be present. Passive fall protection systems such as a handrails, catwalks, or enclosed ladders add extra safety protection.

Falls from Heights

Most workplace fatalities and serious fall-related injuries are from a higher to lower level. Examples of these falls include workers falling from higher floors, or from the top of vehicles. OSHA regulations require employers to provide fall protection equipment for workers in any construction setting where there is a danger of falling four feet or more to a lower level. OSHA also requires that active fall protection systems immediately stop a fall within a distance of 3.5 feet.

An active fall protection system, such as a full-body harness secured to an overhead anchorage point by means of a self-retracting lanyard (SRL), presents the best safety choice for areas where workers risk significant injury or death due to falls from a height. To provide greater safety compliance regarding falls, New York Labor Law § 240 holds contractors and property owners liable for damages arising from lawsuits filed in cases where an elevation-related accident occurs on the construction site.

Swing Falls

Though swing falls are sometimes viewed as a fall from a height, the circumstances leading to these types of falls are unique. Swing falls occur when a worker falls from an elevated platform while attached to a fall arrest system (usually a lanyard) and the location its attachment point is not directly over the worker’s head. Because the attachment point is not directly overhead, the lanyard the worker is using creates an angle.

During a free (swing) fall, the worker is essentially the bottom of a pendulum, causing his body to inevitably swing into some sort of fixed object – usually a wall. This can result in a fatality or serious injury to the worker; not to mention damage to equipment. Swing falls can be prevented by ensuring that workers always tie off to an overhead attach point.

Identifying specific fall risks in any construction environment is vital in determining the most suitable fall protection system. Then managers and employers can purchase a system tailored for the workers who perform these height-related hazardous tasks, relative to the specific needs of their facility. And construction workers must follow all required and recommended safety protocols to further avoid fall hazards. Without the right equipment and proper training, you run the risk of serious injury, or losing your life when you disregard common-sense safety.

Whether you were, or a family member was, injured due to a construction, car, commercial vehicle, or semi-truck accident; you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you are entitled to.

The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting construction accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced construction accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. If you have any questions about your construction accident, call our New York City and Queens Construction accident lawyers today at (718) 897-2211.

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