Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Fall Protection

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Fall Protection

Article excerpt

Despite federal and state prevention efforts, falls continue to be the leading cause of fatalities and catastrophes investigated by OSHA each year. With the number of fall-related incidents at the workplace on the rise, employers, particularly those in the construction industry, should take extra care to ensure that their worksites meet the provisions of OSHA's fall protection standards.

OSHA's requirements and criteria for fall protection in construction workplaces appear in Subpart M, Fall Protection, 29 CFR 1926.500 to 1926.503. While standard 1926.501, which specifies that it is an employer's duty to provide employees with fall protection devices, is the most clearly stated of the fall protection provisions, it's also the most frequently cited fall protection violation.

Violations of this standard, along with other fall protection standards, have been so widespread throughout the southeastern United States, particularly in Florida, that OSHA has stepped up its enforcement efforts in all three of its Florida offices.

As part of their more aggressive enforcement efforts, Cindy Coe, OSHA's regional administrator for Region 4, said Florida OSHA inspectors are targeting smaller contractors, who are normally hard to target. Likewise, inspectors are conducting more frequent, on-the-spot investigations after they've spotted a fall protection violation at a construction site as they were driving by on their way to another location.

"All of our inspectors are trained on fall hazard recognition and are instructed to stop at a worksite any time they see violations taking place, but now there is an even greater push in Florida," Coe said. "It's just one more mechanism we have to make employers more accountable."

According to Coe, visual tip-offs guaranteed to make inspectors stop and conduct random inspections include:

* Improperly erected scaffolding;

* Lack of guardrails on scaffolding;

* Lack of or improper access to scaffolding;

* Improper planking on scaffolding;

* Employees working on building or roof edges without fall protection; and

* Improper ladder use. …

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