Residential Fall Protection Study Shows a Variety of Solutions to Protect Workers from Injury
July ASSE Professional Safety journal article various fall protection methods available for residential construction, examining why contractors are slow in implementation
With falls from height remaining the most common cause of workplace fatalities among residential construction workers, the industry is looking for solutions to protect workers who build new homes. According to Fall Protection on Residential Construction Sites, a peer-reviewed feature in the July issue of Professional Safety the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) journal, there are many good options for conventional fall protection, however they are not widely used.
Falls account for 64 percent of the fatalities in residential building and 100 percent among framing contractors according to a 2011 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Despite these grim figures, workers still frequently work at heights without fall protection.
The article’s authors Vicki Kaskutas, Bradley Evanoff and Harry Miller report on a pilot study that identifies fall protection technologies, measures a small sample of carpentry professionals’ perceptions of these technologies and pilot tests two devices with several residential contractors. Groups surveyed consisted of apprentice carpenters, journeymen carpenters, safety professionals and contractor owners/operators.
The study showed that many commercially available fall protection solutions for three separate categories; protection on floor openings; provision of temporary walking surfaces; and personal fall arrest anchorage were viewed as effective in preventing falls and were able to be used by crews after minimal training. The primary concern to use was the effect of a device on productivity.
“There is a learning curve when using a new fall protection device; this can add time to the home building process, which is a major concern in the current economic environment,” explained Kaskutsas.
In additional safe and feasible points to anchor a harness do not exist during some stages of home construction, particularly during framing. Other obstacles include resistance to changing work habits; and the lack of time, knowledge and financial resources to implement available options.
“The study was done several years ago, and was meant to catalogue all of the fall protection technologies out there, show some new innovations, get construction professionals opinions, and test a few of these devices” Kaskutas said.
Fall Protection in Residential Construction identifies different solutions to overcoming these obstacles to use, such as; repetitive use of a device to lead to long term adoption of fall protection technologies, loaning of pilot-tested equipment to contractors to allow them to integrate it into their workplaces before they purchase it and fall protection equipment rental companies that may be able to help contractors identify and locate the best equipment for a contractors situation.
For more than 50 years, ASSE’s Professional Safety journal has been sharing the latest technical knowledge in SH&E—information that is constantly being developed through research and on-the-job experience. Each issue delivers practical guidance, techniques and solutions to help SH&E professionals identify hazards, protect people, prevent injuries, improve work environments and educate management that investing in safety is a sound business strategy. For more information please visit http://www.asse.org/professionalsafety.
Founded in 1911, the Chicago-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 35,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.