Injury due to falls is a major problem in construction today. Injury and death from falls is second only to traffic accidents taking some 21,000 lives each year.
Falls are placed in two categories:
1. Falls on the same level.
2. Falls from different elevation.
Building stairways, during the construction process, can be very hazardous. Lack of elevator availability or limited access to the elevator may lead to heavy foot traffic on stairways. If special attention is not given to safety considerations on stairways, accidents during usage are likely to occur. Here are a few general safety suggestions relevant to stairways during the building construction process:
1. All railings should be in place before the stairway is opened for use. Landings with open sides need standard guardrails for proper fall protection. The stairs need handrails for workers to hold when ascending or descending.
2. There should be adequate lighting in the stairway. Adequate lighting can be a problem since permanent lighting is usually installed after the stairway construction is completed. OSHA construction standards require 5 foot-candles of light in stairways. The amount of light can be measured with a standard light meter. If the lighting is inadequate, a temporary light bulb string could be installed in the stairway. Each bulb should be equipped with a protective cover and the string should be inspected daily for burned out or broken bulbs.
3. Keep the stairway clean to reduce the likelihood of slips, trips, or falls. Do not store any tools or construction materials on the stairway. Do not through trash down on the stairway. Clean up any liquid spills or rain water immediately.
4. As much as possible, try to avoid using the stairway as a means of access for transporting materials between floors. Carrying small materials and tools is fine as long as the materials do not block your vision. Remember, going up or down a stairway while carrying large items is physically demanding and increases your potential for a strain or sprain injury as well as a fall. Asking a co- worker to help you carry the load may reduce your exposure to a strain, but it may increase the exposure for both of you to be involved in a slip or fall accident. The best alternative is to use the building elevator or crane service.
Do not overlook the potential hazards associated with stairway usage. Stairway safety should be part of your safety program on building constructions
Employers need to:
• Select systems and equipment appropriate for the situation.
• Properly construct and install safety systems.
• Train workers in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of fall protection systems.
Employees need to:
• Use safe work practices.
• Use fall protection equipment properly.
• Always wear provided fall protection equipment.
Who does the rule apply to?
Note: Fall protection requirements for scaffolds (including aerial lifts), cranes &
derricks, steel erection, tunneling operations, electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment work, and stairways and ladders are found in other subparts in the construction
The fall protection rule covers most construction workers except those inspecting, investigating, or assessing workplace conditions prior to the actual start of work or after all work is done.
The rule identifies areas or activities where fall protection is needed.
1. ramps, runways, and other walkways
3. hoist areas
5. formwork and reinforcing steel
6. leading edge work
7. unprotected sides and edges
8. overhead bricklaying and related work
9. roofing work
10. precast concrete erection
11. wall openings
12. residential construction
13. other walking/working surfaces.
What is the threshold height?
The rule sets a uniform threshold height of six feet. This means you must protect your employees from fall hazards whenever an employee is working six feet or more above a lower level.
Protection must also be provided for construction workers who are exposed to the hazard of falling into dangerous equipment. Each employee less than six feet above dangerous equipment must be protected from falling by a guardrail system or equipment guard. If the employee is six feet or more above the equipment, the protection must be either guardrail, personal fall arrest, or a safety net system.
Selection of equipment
Employers can select fall protection measures and equipment compatible with the type of work being performed. Fall protection can generally be provided through the use of guardrail, safety net, personal fall arrest, positioning device, and warning line systems.
The OSHA rule clarifies what an employer must do to provide fall protection for employees, such as identifying and evaluating fall hazards and providing specific training.
Construction Safety – Floor Safety
Unprotected holes in the floor, deck, or roof have been responsible for a number of very serious injuries. Yet, through planning and personal attention, falls through openings under foot are very easy to prevent.
1. If you make a hole, guard it. Before cutting the hole, barricade the work area to keep people out.
2. If the hole must be open, install permanent barricades around the perimeter. Like railings around the edge of a building or stairwell, these should be a minimum of forty-two inches high, have a mid-rail and be capable of withstanding a 200 pound load. Toe boards are recommended at all times and are required if anyone is going to work under the hole.
3. If the hole is not guarded, it must be covered. The cover must be capable of supporting at least a 200 pound load, be larger than the opening, secured against displacement, and labeled “Floor Opening, Do Not Remove”. If you have a choice, make a round opening and cover. An oversized round cover cannot fall through a smaller round hole.
4. Never cover a hole with any type of non-substantial material such as paper, cardboard or plastic. You may ask, “Why would anyone do that?” Unfortunately, it happens surprisingly often.
5. Be extremely careful if you have to walk over protective paper or plastic. A hole could be lurking underneath. Step very tentatively. If you find a hole, expose it immediately for others to see, barricade it or post someone to warn others of the danger, and notify your supervisor. Even shallow holes can cause serious injuries.
6. Plastic skylights and smoke vents are very popular. You should never stand or sit on a skylight. They are not made to support your weight. If you do sit or stand on one, odds are it will break and you will fall. If installing skylights, protect the openings as described above, until installation is complete.
The danger is very real. The control is very simple. This is a hazard that should never be allowed to exist.
Plywood Covers on Floor Openings
Safely covering a floor opening with a piece of plywood requires more than just laying the material over the hole, or even nailing it down. Total safety on the job means a total job of eliminating the hazard. Half a job…inadequate or incomplete jobs of covering hole hazards can result only in half, inadequate or incomplete accident prevention.
Several past jobsite accidents illustrate the point. A carpenter on a floor above calls down to a laborer to hand him a sheet of plywood. The laborer walks over to a sheet lying on the floor, picks it up, takes a step or two forward in the act of standing the plywood up, and goes sailing right down through the hole in the floor, sustaining serious and disabling injuries. Why did it happen?
Although originally nailed down with concrete nails, a small piece of plywood over the hole wasn’t large enough to overlap it adequately. Traffic over it, springing the plywood, loosened the nails.
The plywood over the hole wasn’t marked in any way. There was no warning of any kind on it. The person mistook it for a piece of loose material laying on the floor.
The person wasn’t told about it. The laborer was not made aware of the fact that the covering of floor openings was a job procedure calculated to prevent accidents. Nor was the laborer told that such danger spots must be maintained and reported.
Anything less than total safety is no safety at all. The total safety attitude must be kept in mind when floor openings are being covered.
When covering floor openings:
1. The hole should be covered securely, with a cover big enough and rigid enough to prevent failure.
2. It should be painted, labeled or marked with a danger or warning “DO NOT REMOVE”.
3. Every employee on the job should be warned about it
Guardrails protect you from falls that can seriously injure or even kill. The amount of protection guardrails provide depends on how they are constructed and maintained. Most guardrails are built of strong materials and are usually solid when first put up. As time goes by, however, guardrails often are abused, weakened, broken, or moved and not replaced.
Missing or Weakened Guardrails
Sometimes sections of guardrails must be taken down so that materials or equipment can be brought in. These sections often aren’t replaced or if they are, they’re hastily thrown back up. Weakened guardrails are sometimes more dangerous than no guardrails at all, because they give a false sense of security.
Follow These Rules
We can help avoid guardrail accidents if we follow a few simple rules:
1. As you go about your job, get into the habit of checking guardrails. If you discover a weakened or a missing rail or section , correct the situation if you can. Otherwise, report it so that the hazard can be eliminated.
2. If you bump a rail with material or equipment, check it at once if you suspect you may have weakened it. If you discover you’ve broken a rail, upright, or toe board, repair it if you can. Otherwise, report it so that it can be repaired.
3. When repairing or replacing guardrails, remember you’re exposed to the very danger that you are providing protection against. Perhaps you should be using a safety belt and lanyard.
Keep Your Guard (Rails) Up
Different types of construction may require different types of guardrails. But the points we’ve covered today apply to all. If you have suggestions, make them known so that we can continue to keep our guardrails up and our accidents down
It’s a terrible thing to realize that hardly a work day goes by without a construction worker falling off a scaffold to his death. And those who survive scaffold falls are often crippled for the remainder of their lives.
These tragedies are sometimes caused by faulty design or poor construction. But in most cases the basic cause is poor maintenance or improper use — something that you can do something about.
Practical, foresighted people “keep both feet on the ground.” And practical foresighted construction workers keep both feet on the scaffold. Here’s how you can be sure to keep your feet there:
• Inspect scaffolds daily before you trust your life to them. Check guardrails,
connectors, fastenings, footings, tie-ins, and bracing.
• Check to see that platforms are closely boarded, fenced, and securely fastened.
• Don’t stockpile materials on scaffolds. Remove all tools and left-over materials at
the end of the day.
• Never overload scaffolds. Pile necessary materials over ledger and bearer points.
• Ground yourself during storms or high winds. In winter, clear platforms of all ice and snow before using. Sand wet planking for sure footing.
• Help protect scaffolds; don’t bang into them with equipment or materials. When hoisting material from the ground, control it with a tagline.
• Keep platforms and area near scaffold clear of debris, unneeded equipment or material, and anything else that might cause you to slip or trip.
Give a scaffold the respect it deserves, and it will serve you as a convenient work-platform not as a launching pad to send you hurtling to “The Great Beyond.”
Scaffolding Top 5 Violations
OSHA’s Top 5 Scaffolding Violations
1. Fall Protection
Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protect from falling to that lower level. Each employee on a ladder jack scaffold must be protected by a personal fall arrest system.
2. Access to the working platform
When scaffold platforms are more than two feet above or below an access point, portable, hook on, or attachable ladders; stair towers; stairway-type ladders; ramps walkways integral prefabricated scaffold access; or direct access from another scaffold, structure, personnel hoist or similar surface must be used. You cannot use crossbraces as a mean of access to the working surface.
3. Scaffold planking
Each platform on all working levels of a scaffold must be fully planked or decked between the front uprights and the guardrail supports.
4. Aerial lifts
Aerial ladders must be operated in the following manner:
- Lift controls shall be tested each day prior to use to determine that such controls are in safe working condition.
- Only authorized persons shall operate an aerial lift
- Employees shall always stand firmly on the floor of the basket, and shall not sit or climb on the edge of the basket or use planks, ladders, or other devices for a work position.
Supported scaffold must be used in the following manner:
- Supported scaffold poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights shall bear on base plates and mud sills or other adequate firm foundation.
- Footing shall be level, sound, rigid, and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold without settling or displacement.
- Unstable objects shall not be used to support scaffolds or platform units.
- Front-end loaders and similar piece of equipment shall not be used to support scaffold platforms unless they have been specifically designed by the manufacturer for such use.
- Fork-lifts shall not be used to support scaffold platforms unless the entire platform is attached to the fork and the fork-lift is not moved horizontally while the platform is occupied.
All of these components shall be visually checked before each use and after any occurrence:
1. Basic Principles
- End Frames
- Cross Braces
- Locking Pins
- Base Plates/Screw Jacks
- Base Plates
- Seventy-two percent of the workers injured in scaffold accidents coved by the Bureau of Labor Statistic study attribute scaffold accident either to the planking or support giving way, or the employee slipping, or being struck by a falling object. Plank slippage was the most commonly cited cause.
- Falls from scaffolds is the number one cause of death in construction.
- Scaffold related issues are the number one cited issue by OSHA.
3. Safety Related Work Practices:
• 4 times base width requires tying back the scaffold into the wall or bracing it from swaying.
• No one is allowed to climb the cross braces of the scaffold.
• Only end frames that are designed to be climbed may be.
• Base plates and mud sills must rest on firm, level ground.
• Scaffolds shall be fully planked from post to post.
• Planks or decks shall not be covered with opaque or other finish that will hide defects.
• Planks shall extend between 6 and 18 inches over the end post.
• Scaffolds with open sides can only have 14 inch spacing between scaffold face and wall: plasters are allowed 18 inches.
• Take up only the material needed for the work at hand. Be sure not to overload the scaffold, it must be capable of supporting 4 times the maximum intended load.
Slips and Falls
Each year too many construction workers are injured by slips and falls. Slipping on the floor is bad enough, but falling from a height can be disastrous. How can falls be prevented? Keep your eyes open!
When working at heights, proper guard rails must be used and, where necessary, safety belts that are properly tied-off.
Scaffolding must rest on firm footing and should have all the bracing installed. When using multi-level staging, the scaffolding must also be anchored to the structure. First quality cleated planks, completely covering the working level, are a necessity.
Orderliness plays a big part in preventing slips and falls. Debris lying around on floors and working areas is an open invitation to accident. Weather increases hazards, particularly in winter when debris becomes snow covered and cannot be seen. Ice conditions create additional dangers. Sand and/or calcium should be applied to icy areas.
Wet weather causes muddy feet which contribute in turn to slips and falls. Wipe your feet before climbing steps or entering a work area.
When climbing a ladder, hold on with both hands. When walking down stairs use the guardrail.
Your eyes are your best defense against slips and falls. Watch your step and look where you are going.
Temporary Stair Railings & Guard Rails
Temporary stair railings and guard rails are not a special luxury for select jobs—they are REQUIRED BY LAW ON ALL CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS to protect workers like you from falls.
Since falls from upper levels account for such a high percentage of construction accidents, both stair railings and guard rails should be built in conjunction with the building progress, NOT PUT OFF to a later date, or as time permits. Because of their importance, don’t cheat on quality—BUILD THEM RIGHT!
A standard guard rail must be 42″ high from floor to top of rail, its posts must not exceed 8′ centers, it must have a midrail, and a 4″ high toeboard strong enough to stop tools, materials, etc, from sliding or rolling over the edge. If a 4″ toeboard is not sufficient to restrain adjacent materials, then paneling or screening should be used. All guard rails must be capable of withstanding a 200 pound load in any direction.
The minimum requirements for wooden rails are 2″ x 4″ stock for posts and top rail, with a 1″ x 6″ midrail. The material should be selected to avoid defects and splinters. If you prefer steel, use 1 1/2″ pipe, or 2″ x 2 ” x 3/8″ angle for posts, top and midrail. Other materials of equal or greater strength may be substituted, however, due to its unpredictable strength and brittleness, re-bar is not acceptable material for use as guard rail.
The construction of stair railings should be similar to that of the guard rails mentioned above, except that the top surface of the railing should be a distance of 30 to 34 inches as measured from the top, forward edge of the trend, (in line with the face of the riser below it), upward in a vertical line, to the top of the railing. Landings and platforms require standard guard rails.
Wire rope has gained widespread application in the construction industry as a guard rail material. The failure of a wire rope while in use can result in serious injuries, fatalities or property damage. The most common method used to make an eye or attach a wire rope to a piece of equipment is with cable or Crosby clips of the U-Bolt and saddle type.
U-Bolt clips must have the U-Bolt section on the dead or short end of the rope and the saddle on the live or long end of the rope. The wrong application of even one clip can reduce the strength of the connection to 40%.
Never use fewer than the number of clips recommended. Turn back the correct amount of rope for dead ending to permit proper spacing of the clips. Always use new clips; re-used clips will not develop the proper efficiency. It is equally important to always use a thimble to prevent the rope from wearing the eye and to provide a safer connection.
After the rope has been in operation for an hour or so, all nuts on the clip bolts will have to be retightened, and they should be checked for tightness at frequent intervals thereafter. This is necessary because the rope will stretch slightly, causing a reduction in diameter which will loosen the clips.
Never use any kind of clip to directly connect two straight lengths of rope. If this is necessary, use the clips to form an eye in each length and connect the eyes together.
Means of Complying with Fall Protection
We have discussed the major changes in the OSHA Fall Protection Standard for Construction such as the Body Belts, the Six Foot Rule, Non-Locking Snap Hooks, etc.. But what are the options which will provide us Fall Protection and help us to comply with the Standard?
OSHA has listed 15 general areas where some form of fall protection will be needed if the potential for a fall over 6 feet exists. The list of fifteen types of work and the means allowed for providing fall protection is provided on the attached chart.
Remember these changes to the Federal OSHA Construction Standards are there to protect you and are minimum requirements. Those of you with STATE Standards should consult your state regulations. Many of the State OSHA Programs have adopted the Federal OSHA Standard as written.
FALL PROTECTION information for some specific areas, that you might want to know about, is covered in many different Subparts of your Federal or State Standards. Some of these that you may want to refer to are: Subpart L — Scaffolds, Subpart N — Cranes and Derricks, Subpart R — Steel Erection, Subpart S — Underground Construction, Caissons, Cofferdams, and Compressed Air, Subpart V — Power Transmission and Distribution, Subpart X — Stairways and Ladders.
Knowing the tools that are available to protect you is smart. Using them is even smarter. If there is a potential for
falling – you need protection.
See table on next page:
SUBPART M – Fall Protection