In 2017, the top OSHA violation was the category of “Fall Protection – General Requirements.” This was the most cited violation, with 6,687 incidents.
Per OSHA’s Fall Protection in Construction Pamphlet, historically, falls are the leading cause of fatalities in Construction, accounting for 1/3 of fatalities in the industry. But OSHA’s Fall Protection requirements are not limited to the Construction Industry alone, nor are fall-related fatalities.
OSHA’s Fall Protection website states that workplaces must set up fall protection to protect workers from hazards such as, but not limited to, falling off overhead platforms, overhead work stations, or into holes in the floor and walls. The height ranges from 4 feet in General Industry to 8 feet in the Longshoring Industry.
Regardless of height, if there is a danger of falling, the worker should be protected. In 2015, an OSHA investigation found that a near-fatal accident occurred from a fall at WKW in Pell City, Alabama due to the company’s failure to implement the proper fall protection. A worker fell backwards into a tank of highly corrosive phosphoric and sulfuric acid, seriously burning 70% of his body and internal organs. This was NOT just a chance occurrence. This was a willful, serious, and repeated violation. Had the company, WKW, heeded OSHA’s previous citations and performed the correct abatement, this accident could have been prevented. Instead, the company faced proposed penalties of $177,500.
Workers have the right to work free from the risk of serious harm. Additionally, they must have the proper equipment and training (in their native language) to perform their job safely. Employers should make every effort to create a safe and healthful workplace, such as following OSHA’s Fall Protection requirements. If they don’t, workers have the right to file a complaint with OSHA.