Fall protection saves construction worker from 30-foot plunge!
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, with hundreds of workers dying each year and thousands more facing debilitating injuries.
In Washington State in 2014, 15 workers died, 5 were from falls.
So typically we discuss the consequences of the not wearing fall protection or the misuse of fall protection in the construction industry resulting in either a serious injury or fatality.
On Wednesday May 5th, a construction worker was stripping forms when suddenly he was catapulted over a 30-foot retaining wall. His partner says, “It was crazy; one minute he was there, and in a blink of an eye he was gone. Thankfully, the construction worker was utilizing a fall protection system. His fall protection consisted of personal fall arrest and was tied-off to the horizontal life line installed for this activity. He survived the potential 30-foot fall with no significant injuries as the fall protection system worked perfectly. His co-workers activated the rescue plan, and he was able to self-rescue with help from co-worker. “I went home safe that day and made it to my son’s 5pm baseball game”.
One week prior to the incident, the construction workers employer, in preparation for OSHA’s National Fall Protection Week, the companies’ project team held a site visit with an L&I consultation consultant, a DOT Project Management Team and the company Safety Managers. They discussed the challenges of fall protection on the job. After the meeting, they conducted a site inspection, and identified areas for improvement. The inspection process concluded with a site BBQ and fall protection information was shared with the project crew.
This near miss is a success story. The commitment to safety by management and labor, the training, the usage of the safety equipment provided, all played an important part in this worker’s eventual safe work day.
Some things to take away from this incident;
a. Identification of the task to be performed is the starting point. What kind of tools will be used, equipment and work area dynamics
b. What are the hazards associated with the task, i.e., falls, electrical, movement of machinery
c. Abatement of hazards –outside assistance (LNI consultation), a proactive project team assessing and inspection of work place hazards, before and during the task. Training workers of the hazards, equipment they will be using, supplying of the tools, equipment and PPE that is required. Having a rescue plan in place in case an event an unforeseen incident. Documenting and, verifying that this has been done, that is a check and balance
Please note, this employer has one of the best safety records in Washington State. Incidents and near misses will happen, to even the best as it did with this company. But what makes them the best, is the commitment of management, commitment of employee’s, using resources available, planning, looking out for each other, which goes a long ways in providing a safe work environment.