Construction work in the United States is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous occupations. In fact, based on data from 2018, approximately 11 out of every 100,000.00 construction workers will die each year while on the job (See US Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2018). While transportation accidents lead as the most common way for workers to get injured, fatally or otherwise, construction accidents are never far behind. In fact, every year, nearly 7 percent of construction workers will get injured at work and require time off to seek medical treatment and recuperate from his or her injuries. Id.
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Types of Fatal Construction Accidents – The Fatal Four
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) there are four types of construction accidents that lead in causing fatalities (See Osha Commonly Used Statistics). These are known as the “Fatal Four.” Leading the Fatal Four is falls – accounting for nearly 34% of all fatal construction site accidents. Falls from fixed ladders, specifically, are one of the most common forms of falls on construction sites. Id.
Regulations on Fixed Ladders – The Cage
In previous years, OSHA stated that there was a duty to have fall protection for fixed ladders. (See OSHA Section 1910.28 (2017)). According to Section 1910.28, for ladders installed before November of 2018, a cage surrounding a fixed ladder is one option for meeting OSHA’s ladder safety requirements. The cage is simply a grated tube-like structure that surrounds the ladder. Such cages are extremely helpful in preventing falls backwards from a ladder but would not prevent a drop straight down the ladder. Section 1910.28 allowed cages as a sufficient safety measure for fixed ladders of ladders of 24 feet or over. This is no longer the case.
Regulations on Fixed Ladders After November 1, 2018 – Fall Arrest System
OSHA no longer believes in cages. For fixed ladders installed on or after November 1, 2018, a personal fall arresting system must be in place instead of a cage for fixed ladders that are 24 feet or longer. According to a consulting forensic engineer, a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) usually includes a full body harness with shock absorbing lanyards and a positioning hook. OSHA presumably requires the PFAS systems instead of fixed ladder cages because the PFAS will stop all falls, not just ones where the construction worker falls backwards or sideways into the cage wall.
Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) Requirements
Notably, OSHA has developed extremely specific requirements for the PFAS systems, regarding length of acceptable free fall, length of rope or lanyard, and the distance above the ground the construction worker must be brought to a complete stop by the PFAS. OSHA specifies the following:
Only 4.5 feet of free fall is acceptable before the PFAS begins deceleration
Deceleration can only occur in the space of a 3.5-foot vertical fall
There must be 5 feet from the shoes of the construction worker to center of the harness on his or her back, and
There must be a safety factor minimum of 1.5 feet from the ground.
Construction Accident Victims – What Should You Do?
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident while working at a construction site, it is ESSENTIAL to take the following steps. Failure to do so may result in unnecessary damage to your claim and financial recovery. The “Must Do” steps are:
The American construction worker is subjected to numerous dangers on a daily basis. These dangers are well documented in the fatal and non-fatal accident statistics discussed above. Notably, these all-too-frequent accidents are often accompanied by an OSHA violation on the job site.