Fall Protection in the Construction Industry

Introduction

As buildings continue to expand upward the level of danger they pose on construction workers increases as a direct result of the inherent dangers of working several hundred feet from the ground.

In fact current data from the construction industry shows that falls are actually the leading cause of death for various workers involved in construction projects with a majority of fatalities actually occurring when employees fall through open-sided floors or through floor openings. While certain precautions are taken the fact remains that to this day nearly 150 to 200 workers within the U.S. alone are killed as a result of falls with up to 100,000 injuries attributable to similar accidents.

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It is due to instances such as this that industry standards have required fall protection to be implemented in cases were employees face the risk of experiencing falls of 6 feet or greater. In order to help you understand the inherent risks involved I will present a rather brief presentation on the various types of fall protection currently utilized and how such methods are used to save lives.

Fall Protection

Fall protection can be defined as a method utilized in order to prevent a construction worker from experiencing significant injury or worse through the implementation of various safety precautions, procedures and devices in the average construction site (Stromme, 50).

This takes the form of two specific types namely passive types of protection systems that do not involve the actions of employees and active systems that require manipulation by employees to actually make them effective. Passive systems most often seen in construction sites range from guardrails and safety nets to barricades and covers while active systems on the other hand take the form of life lines, body harnesses, anchorage points and lanyards.

What must be understood is that when constructing upwards companies are in effect working against the force of gravity yet since gravity is ubiquitous in our natural environment this in effect causes objects to have the tendency to propagate in a downward direction when insufficient means of harnessing are not utilized.

Body harnesses, life lines and anchorage points act as contingency devices supporting workers by preventing them from falling to their deaths since they act as anchoring points and which allows workers to remain connected to the superstructure of the building after a fall (Firl, 33). It must be noted though that such devices, as mentioned earlier, require a conscious effort on the part of a work to actually be utilized effectively.

If such devices are considered to effective deterrents of falls why then are there 150 to 200 fall related deaths in the construction industry in the U.S.? This can actually be answered by the simple fact that the inherent carelessness or even foolhardiness of workers needs to be taken into consideration during construction projects since at times workers either neglect to or assume that they don’t need to utilize such cumbersome types of equipment.

It is in situations such as these that passive fall protection systems come into effect. Guardrails, safety nets, barricades and covers have saved thousands of lives over the years due to the rather careless behavior of construction workers yet it must also be noted that there are limits to their effective placement since areas within the superstructure of the building itself often do not have passive systems of protection due to space restrictions which results in the 150 to 200 deaths are year statistic.

Conclusion

Based on what I’ve presented so far it can be seen that fall protection is an indispensable tool in any construction project since it helps to save the lives of workers yet it must be noted that it does have limitations. Not all areas of a construction site can be covered with passive systems of fall protection and as such in instances such as these active systems must be utilized, if not, workers do so at the cost of their own safety and lives.

Works Cited

Firl, Craig. “Anchors and Body Support and Connectors, Oh My!.” EHS Today 3.3 (2010): 33. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 June 2011.

Stromme, Mark H. “Clearing Up the Confusion Surrounding Fall Protection.” EHS Today 3.5 (2010): 50. MasterFILE Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 June 2011.

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