Construction sites are among the most hazardous workplaces in the country. In 2020, more than 20 percent of all workplace deaths occurred on a construction site. And of those, falls were a primary cause of fatal injury. In fact, fall-related injuries were responsible for about a third of all construction site deaths. Unsurprisingly, almost all 2020 fall deaths were due to falls from a higher level to a lower level.
Clearly, fall hazards are of particular danger to construction workers. That’s why safety agencies, including OSHA, encourage companies and their managers to discuss fall safety during “stand-downs.” During a safety stand-down, workers and their supervisors take a short break to discuss safety plans and issues at their workplace. Similar to toolbox talks, these breaks are useful for centering the conversation on safety.
This is one way to improve fall safety – and worksite safety in general. However, there are several more measures that companies can take to protect their employees from fatal falls.
Four Ways Construction Companies Can Improve Fall Safety
Safety isn’t a single process or the responsibility of a single person. It’s a comprehensive plan of attack intended to minimize the presence and risk of workplace hazards. As such, there are many ways that a construction site can improve its fall safety. Here are four examples:
- Create a fall safety plan and verify that it’s being implemented – While safety plans aren’t always a hard requirement, they are effective at limiting harm caused by workplace hazards. Most safety plans are general in nature and address all hazards on a site. But hazard-specific plans can also be developed to address elevated risks.
A fall safety plan is one example. If fall hazards are present, such a plan can identify where fall risks are highest, what measures are in place (or must be implemented) to minimize risk, and what to do in the event of an emergency. By putting this down in writing, your safety teams will respond appropriately to every fall-related situation.
- Provide fall arrest systems and inspect them regularly – Fall arrest systems and harnesses are a valuable lifeline should someone fall from a height. OSHA requires fall arrest systems for any employees working at a height of 6 feet or higher. Ensure harnesses are easy to locate and in good working condition. It’s also critical that all harnesses be regularly inspected. Inspections should address the harness’s stitching and any hardware connection points.
- Maintain a clean worksite – Falls are often preceded by a slip or trip, and those are frequently caused by debris or spills. Keep the worksite clean, and it will be far easier for workers to identify slip and trip hazards before they cause an accident.
- Place guardrails where fall hazards are present – Guardrails can be quickly installed and support workers as they navigate up and down stairs. Guardrails are also effective around openings and can be used to prevent workers from tumbling into an opening.
- Place safety signage where fall hazards are present – Every site safety plan should make room for signage. Relative to the value it offers, safety signage is inexpensive and simple to implement.
Safety signage is valuable mainly due to its passive role in accident prevention. It doesn’t need to be powered, rarely requires maintenance, and is extremely reliable. The only question is, does your construction site have enough high-quality signage in place?
Safety Signage is a Critical Element in Fall Safety, so Invest in the Right Signs
Safety signage is an inexpensive, reliable means of improving worksite safety. If installed properly, it’s always present. And because signage is always present, so is the emphasis on safety. The goal for site managers, then, is to ensure high quality signage is in place and readily visible. What does that look like?
- Aluminum construction – Aluminum is the recommended material for fall safety signage, and all construction safety signage in general. This lightweight metal is easy to handle and mount, so it can be positioned anywhere it’s needed. As fall safety signage may be placed in elevated areas, a low weight signage material is itself a matter of safety.
Another reason for selecting aluminum is its durability. Aluminum offers an excellent mix of impact and corrosion resistance, perfect for the high-dust, high-moisture environments that construction teams often face. Aluminum is also resistant to chemical and salt-related damage, so it’s well-built for coastal areas.
To ensure your fall safety signage is durable enough for construction, pick aluminum.
- Standardized designs – Safety signage designs have been standardized to ensure effectiveness, readability, and clarity. Both OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulate how safety signage should look and where it should be placed. The ANSI’s design standards are more stringent, specifying details like font size and color.
Your fall safety signage should also adhere to these standards, as they guide designers to create more communicative messaging. An experienced, reputable commercial printer will have a library of compliant designs to choose from, so site managers can pick the ones that work best for their worksite.
- Sharp print quality – Print quality on aluminum is just as important as it is on paper. We all know that poor print quality can affect how well paper signage works. It’s the same with metals, which require specialized printing methods to work with. Dibond printing is one example and consists of a pair of aluminum sheets wrapped around a polymer core.
The more experienced your printer is with specialized methods like dibond printing, the more reliable their print quality will be.
Falls Claim Hundreds of Lives Every Year on Construction Sites, but Safety Signage Can Help
Falls are a major cause of serious and fatal accidents on construction sites. The good news is, they can be prevented with the proper safety protocols in place. This includes putting together a detailed action plan, implementing fall prevention measures, and installing warning signage in high-risk areas.
That last practice – installing safety signage – is best handled with a commercial printer’s assistance. Experienced commercial printers frequently work with construction companies to supply their workplace safety signage. With their high-volume, high-quality printing techniques, along with knowledge of approved signage designs, a commercial printer can supply your worksite with the signs needed to alert, and protect, workers from potential falls.