The Fatal Result of Lack of Safety Training

Source: Katarzyna Białasiewicz - 123RF

According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in construction.

In 2017, there were 366 fatal falls to a lower level out of 971 construction fatalities.

On Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, four gutter installation specialists arrived on the construction site of a new private residence for the purpose of installing gutters.

A recent Kentucky FACE investigation found that one worker was standing on a ladder positioned on the porch roof of a private residence in a suburban neighborhood, taking measurements for the purpose of installing gutters. As he descended the ladder, the base kicked out, causing him to lose his balance and fall 10 feet 9 inches to the ground below.

A co-worker was uninjured, but the victim had landed on his head and was unresponsive. The owner of the company rushed to the victim and called 911.

Emergency services arrived within five minutes of the call and transported the victim to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:13 pm the same day.

The investigation identified the following unrecognized hazards as key contributing factors in this incident:

  • Lack of hazard recognition and safety training;
  • Performing work at heights without adequate fall protection; and
  • Ladder not used on stable and level surface.

The FACE investigator concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences:

  • Perform a job hazard analysis of the worksite;
  • Train employees on and enforce the use of fall protection when working at heights above 6 feet;
  • Ensure ladders are placed on sturdy, level ground or secured before use; and
  • Implement workplace health and safety programs.

Failure to protect employees while working at heights and failure to properly train and document completion of fall protection training directly violates two separate OSHA standards:

  • According to 29 CFR 1926.501 (b)(1): Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which was 6 feet (1.8m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.
  • According to 29 CFR 1926.502(b)(1): The employer shall verify compliance with paragraph (a) of this section by preparing a written certification record. The written certification record shall contain the name or other identity of the employee trained, the date(s) of the training, and the signature of the person who conducted the training or the signature of the employer. If the employer relies on training conducted by another employer or completed prior to the effective date of this section, the certification record shall indicate the date the employer determined the prior training was adequate rather than the date of actual training.

Since 2012, OSHA has partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) – Construction Sector on the Fall Prevention Campaign, to raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards in construction, and how falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs can be prevented.