Slip and fall injuries can happen anywhere, during all seasons of the year. When specifically analyzing occupations and work environments, construction industry employees are more likely to experience this type of accident.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the construction industry experienced 351 fatal fall injuries in 2020. These injuries represented roughly one-third of all fatal accidents on construction sites, making them the industry’s leading cause of on-the-job deaths that year. Fatal injuries are also on the rise year-over-year, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics noting a three percent increase from 2019 to 2020.

While some people may blame falls on the nature of the job, reducing these accidents in the workplace often comes down to appropriate employee training and providing a safe work environment, complete with fall prevention equipment and personal protective equipment.

Employees who slip and fall on the job are eligible to collect workers’ compensation and may further have the right to file a claim against their employer for creating a hazardous work environment. Here’s what you should know.

Slip and Fall Hazards In Construction

construction worker injured on floorOn construction sites, fall injuries can be grouped into two general types:

  • Falls on the same level, which don’t involve a worker falling from a height. These injuries often result from a worker tripping over an object, may cause bruises or musculoskeletal injuries and are not typically fatal.
  • Falls to a lower level involving some kind of height, like a ladder or scaffold.

For nearly a decade, the National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction has strived to reduce the number of falls on construction sites through education. Specifically, a vulnerable role like roofing puts these workers at about 10 times greater risk for a fatal fall, compared to other construction occupations. Workers over the age of 55 are even more susceptible to fatalities from ladder accidents.

A number of factors may contribute to slip and fall injuries on construction sites:

  • Uneven surfaces, including potholes, cracks, muddy ground and elevation changes.
  • Temporary structures that have been improperly set up, including bridges, walkways and scaffolding.
  • Working in slippery conditions, including rain and snow, on recently waxed floors or around a spilled substance.
  • Obstructions or piles of tools, equipment, cords, dirt, trash and other debris.
  • Improper signage around construction sites, including uncovered or unmarked holes.
  • Carrying heavy, bulky objects or falling objects.
  • Failing to wear appropriate PPE and footwear.
  • Working through injuries and chronic pain, both of which can affect balance.
  • Exposed wiring that can lead to someone tripping and possible electrocution.
  • Failing to properly illuminate a work area.
  • Unprotected platforms – specifically, a surface without a guardrail and toe board.
  • Ignoring fall protection recommendations, including not using safety harnesses and safety lines above the ground.
  • Failing to properly train workers and supervisors on safety regulations.
  • Not inspecting construction sites for potential fall hazards.

Based on the working conditions and height of the fall, construction workers are more likely to experience broken bones, an amputation, traumatic brain injuries, burns, abrasions or spinal cord injuries. Employees face time off work, a long and expensive recovery, and risk permanent disability impacting future employment.

What Workplaces Can Do

Based on OSHA recommendations, construction sites can reduce slip and fall injuries by:

  • Removing all possible obstructions from where employees will be working. This includes clearing away debris, establishing rules for equipment and covering holes.
  • Reducing slippery surfaces. This means adding textured, anti-skid mats throughout the year and removing all ice before work starts in the winter months.
  • Providing proper training on the use of all equipment and fall protection systems.
  • Establishing rules for how much weight a level on a scaffold or floor can support.
  • Ensuring platforms, stairs, ladders and open-sided floors have a railing and toe board.
  • Inspecting all work areas before the day begins, recording any issues and fixing them as soon as possible.
  • Establishing safety protocols, including ladder inspections and not using metal equipment near wires.
  • Making sure temporary structures are secure to prevent collapse and falling objects.
  • Setting up proper signage and barriers for using potentially dangerous equipment.
  • Requiring fall arrest systems with body belts, cages or steel frames based on height and ensuring proper PPE is supplied.
  • Requiring all workers to clean up after themselves, including returning tools and equipment and mopping up any spills.
  • Specifying the footwear that workers need to safely complete their jobs.

Were you or a loved one injured after a slip and fall accident on a construction site? Pursue a claim with Trantolo & Trantolo today.