Of course, ladder falls are only one type of fall injury that can occur on a given construction site. Falls from roofs and scaffolds, falls through holes, and even construction injuries from falling objects are regarded similarly by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration in terms of the need for fall protection on a construction site.
What does OSHA recommend in terms of overall fall protection for construction workers? The following information comes courtesy of the federal agency’s fall prevention campaign website. It is presented here as general in nature only and not intended as specific legal advice.
While construction sites can be very complicated places to work, OSHA provides a simple, clear rule for when employers need to provide fall protection: the six foot rule. Whenever works are elevated six feet or higher from the level below them, fall protection is necessary. It may also be necessary at lower elevations if there are dangerous substances or machinery into which a worker might fall.
That answers the question of when should fall protection should be used, but what constitutes fall protection? It could be a safety net, a personal system to arrest a fall, or a system of guardrails — conventional fall protection, according to OSHA. Workers on rooftops, for example, could also be protected by warning line and monitoring systems in combination with these other measures.
In spite of the OSHA requirements, falls are still the main cause of death for construction workers, with almost 300 falling deaths reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013. Families who have lost a loved one in this way may wish to consult with a legal professional about what kinds of fall protection were (or were not) in use at the time, and how to hold any negligent parties on the construction site accountable.
Source: OSHA, “Fall Protection in Construction,” accessed on Dec. 11, 2015