Falls from heights make up the largest percentage of fatalities in the construction industry, yet fall protection is often willfully neglected on jobs involving this danger. About one third of all fatalities in the construction industry are from falls. Why, then, even after repeat violations, do some employers fail to buy and implement low-cost, simple, yet effective personal fall arrest systems?
In the construction industry, roofing contractors in particular fall short in providing employees with adequate fall protection and training on its use. The #1 citation that OSHA cites during roofing contractor inspections is the “duty to have fall protection.” Perhaps some companies are slow to implement safety measures because they consider using a personal fall arrest system a hindrance, extra cost, or doing more than the minimum. Safety negligence is not only illegal, but hurts people and profits. The truth is, unsafe workers result in much greater personal and financial costs than the investment in worker training and fall protection.
One of OSHA’s slogans is “Accidents cost. Safety pays.” Let’s take the real-life example of a company in Florida who was recently fined $124,709 by OSHA. OSHA found that no employees were protected by fall protection while installing roofing shingles on a 6:12 pitch, while exposed to an 8 foot fall hazard. Refusal to comply with the OSHA recommendations and regulations cost the company many times what it would have cost to be safe. This was not the first time they were cited, so it was considered a “Willful Violation.”
For much, much less money than the OSHA fine, the company could have provided workers with inexpensive personal fall arrest systems. For example a Werner complete roofing safety kit is only $99 per worker. This OSHA & ANSI compliant kit contains a temporary steel roof anchor (which is nailed to the roof peak), full body harness, 50 foot lifeline, and 3 foot lanyard with a double locking snap hook.
OSHA’s mission is to keep workers safe and healthy, and this should be an employer’s goal, too. To find out more, OSHA has excellent publications on Fall Protection in Construction and Protecting Roofing Workers. These go into great detail on every aspect of regulations, hazards, safety tools, and training that are applicable to working from heights. The benefits of safety far outweigh taking unnecessary risks.