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Construction site falls: federal rules and employer obligations

Injuries from workplace falls are a frequent type of workers' compensation claim. This is particularly true on construction sites, where scaffolding collapses and ladder falls are far too common. These falls can not only cause injuries; they can be deadly.

Indeed, in the construction industry, falls are the leading cause of workplace fatalities. In the Baltimore area and across the country, this specter of death haunts construction sites - and should provide compelling motivation for employers to take diligent steps to prevent as many falls as reasonably possible.

How frequent are deaths from falls in the construction industry? Nationally, falls at construction sites kill an average of 150 to 200 workers every year. Approximately another 100,000 workers are injured.

What can employers do to prevent falls? Effective fall protection involves the development of systems and procedures designed not only to prevent falls, but protect employees from falling objects.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has articulated a fall prevention rule that sets the standard for construction sites. It is published in the Code of Federal Regulations. (29 CFR, Subpart M, Sections 1926.500 et seq.)

One thing the rule clarifies is the degree of elevation that should trigger fall prevention measures. The federal rule establishes a threshold height of 6 feet (1.8 meters) for fall protection purposes. If construction employees are working above that height, employers must take steps to protect them from falls.

Of course, there are a number of different fall prevention techniques available. They include guardrails, safety nets and other devices designed to stop falls.

Source: "Fall Protection," Occupational Safety & Health Administration

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Baltimore ladder falls page.

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