In May, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) put construction sites on notice that Cal/OSHA inspectors are taking a hardline approach to fall hazards on the job. As a result, there is likely to be increased scrutiny on construction sites with a special emphasis on appropriate fall safety systems. The warning was prompted by a spate of fatal accidents in the San Francisco Bay region. OSHA is investigating the deaths to determine what went wrong.
Even a Short Fall Can Kill
While some of the incidents involved falls from a significant height, one worker died from head injuries sustained in a fall of just 9 feet. It might seem like a drop from that distance would simply result in a few broken bones. But it just takes falling at the wrong angle or striking an object on the way down to turn a serious injury into a fatality. That’s why many of Cal/OSHA’s fall protection regulations kick in whenever workers will be more than 7.5 feet above the ground.
Serious Fall Accidents Are Usually Avoidable
On the “National Safety Stand-Down for Fall Protection” web page, the DIR notes: “Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for 269 of the 775 construction fatalities nationwide recorded in 2012. Those deaths were preventable. Fall prevention safety standards were among the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards, during fiscal year 2012.” The DIR conducted several training events hosted by California construction companies in June to raise awareness about this problem.
Falling into the Ground
For wastewater agencies sewer collections workers in particular, it’s important to note that trenches pose a potential fall hazard. While trenches aren’t several stories deep, they add the risk of suffocation if a side gives way, leading to a fall and possible engulfment. Wastewater treatment plants may also carry a risk of falls from ladders and other raised work surfaces and platforms, as well as sumps, valve pits and other open vaults.
Have you reviewed your fall protection systems and processes lately? Don’t let this important aspect of your safety program fall by the wayside. Contact DKF Solutions for a consultation today.