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Chicago Personal Injury Blog

Preventing Falls When You Work in Construction

by Jared Staver in Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Workers' Compensation

The Chicago construction accident lawyers at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., are serious about preventing falls on worksites. Falls are the number one cause of death in the U.S. construction industry, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They caused 370 deaths in 2016—37.3 percent of the total construction fatalities in the United States for that year.

Our construction accident attorneys have already seen four construction fall-related deaths in the Chicago area between January and June 2018. In the interests of preventing further falls, we offer the following information. If you are ever injured on the jobsite, do not hesitate—contact a Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer at (312) 236-2900.

What Employers Must Do to Improve Safety in Construction

OSHA reports that the most commonly violated federal standard in 2017 was 1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection for construction workers, under the Safety and Health Regulations for Construction. The standard states in part, “Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.” Barricades and covers are also required to prevent workers from falling into holes in a work surface or excavations on the ground.

In order to prevent fall-related injuries and fatalities, OSHA strongly encourages employers to:

  1. PLAN ahead for the job at hand. How will it best be completed? What safety equipment is required? What are all the potential risks to be addressed?
  2. PROVIDE the required equipment. There are federal regulations covering scaffolding, ladders, safety gear, and other protections that employers must give to workers. Malfunctioning equipment is not acceptable, and must be re-checked daily by site supervisors for safety.
  3. TRAIN their workers properly. Researchers at The Center for Construction Research and Training found that in a 33-year period, 54 percent of construction workers killed had no access to a personal fall arrest system (PFAS), 23 percent did not use it; and many killed were new on the job and had not been properly trained.

This push toward safety is leading to a booming industrial fall protection equipment market, which is estimated to reach 3.8 billion globally by 2024. We applaud this development, and encourage further innovation in the field. But along with that innovation must come more training.

Anne Osborn, a marketing manager for Pennsylvania-based construction equipment company MSA, spoke on exciting safety equipment advancements in the field, such as leading-edge SRLs that incorporate special web lifeline technology, but warned: “It is always a challenge to ensure that all workers who may face potential fall hazards are not only initially trained on how to use a product, but continually trained, so that they are prepared and comfortable in what actions to take in the event of a fall.”

What Workers Should Do to Prevent Falls

Construction employees have a right to a safe working environment. As such, they should:

  • Be cautious when working at any elevation, even a few feet.
  • Refuse to work at elevation over 6 feet if the employer has not provided federally-compliant fall protection, like guardrails, safety nets, or other acceptable measures.
  • Use a personal fall arrest system every time while performing work at elevation.
  • Ask for fall prevention training, and not stop asking until they get it. Take refresher courses what to do in the event of a fall, and how to assist a fellow worker who takes a fall.

If a construction employer violates federal safety standards, it is important to report the violation at once to OSHA, which should come out to the site to check its safety. Though Chicago construction workers are covered by the workers’ compensation system of Illinois, a negligent employer that causes serious injury to a worker may still be held liable in court for the worker’s additional costs.

What to Do If You Are Injured by a Fall

If you are injured in a construction-related fall, please call Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., immediately. We have extensive experience handling Chicago construction accidents.

After your free consultation, we will go to work to investigate the true causes of your injury, and examine your employer’s history of safety violations. We will also explore potential third-party negligence, for example, if a subcontractor or building owner was also partly responsible for your accident. Rest assured that we will do our utmost to provide you with just compensation for your injuries and other losses, and get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Since we work on contingency fee, you do not need to worry about paying us unless we get you compensation.

Call (312) 236-2900 to speak to a Chicago construction accident lawyer today or use our online contact form.