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The Leading Cause of Worker Injury

In light of the recent jobsite accidents in Seattle, this is a good reminder that prevention through awareness and education can go a long way to prevent injury or save a life.  Out of 3,929 worker fatalities in private industry in calendar year 2013, 796 or 20.3% were in construction, that is, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction.  The leading causes of worker deaths on construction sites were falls, followed by struck by object, electrocution, and caught-in/between. These “Fatal Four” were responsible for more than half (58.7%) the construction worker deaths in 2013, as reported by the BLS (Bureau of Labor & Statistics).  Eliminating the Fatal Four would save 468 workers’ lives in America every year.

Why is fall protection important?  Fall protection can prevent injury and save lives. Wearing proper fall protection appropriate for the application and getting trained on how to properly wear it is key to prevention.

What can be done to reduce falls?  Employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls. It’s also important to remind employees not to use forklifts or other lift equipment improperly.  OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:

  • Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat or acid or a conveyor belt) employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety and harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.
  • Train employees how to properly use fall protection equipment and ensure they are using the right equipment for the right application.  There are weight limits and also a life expectancy on various harnesses and lanyards. 
  • Train employees to spot and point out hazards and improper use of equipment by others.

OSHA requires employers to:

  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
  • Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.


Our Energy Solutions Team  of Specialists was recently OSHA 10 certified and highly recommends the 10-hour training as a good measure for awareness and prevention.  Visit the OSHA training site to learn more at

OSHA has great resources. Visit their “Stop Falls” site at

For posters, white papers, checklists, and cheat sheets by topic, visit their resource center at

Written by: Christina Ide, CCP, SPHR. Christina is the Director of Marketing and Sales Development at North Coast Electric and has her SPHR, Senior Professional in Human Resources Certification, through HRCI.