I can’t tell you how many falls I saw on the job that could have been prevented if the work area was just a little less cluttered. Construction sites have the reputation for being a mess, and that reputation needs to go away. Construction sites that actually hire people to sweep and clean up have fewer accidents and injuries that are caused by falls, and I think it’s worth it to pay a better and busier cleaning crew.
Workers also need to wear anti-slip shoes. They should be part of the uniform right alongside hardhats and reflective work shirts, and they just aren’t at this point in time. Floors should be treated with an anti-slip coating as well. We need to make the floors safer to use if we’re actually going to make any progress with actually preventing falls.
Plenty of injuries can be grouped in the category of ‘bodily reaction’ injuries. If you trip, or get injured in some way while sitting, standing, reaching, or doing some activity like that, it’s a bodily reaction injury. These can be harder to prevent, partly because the category is so broad. One way we can at least prevent tripping is to make sure that equipment isn’t placed in exactly the wrong place, which is not always a guarantee at a construction site.
Encouraging workers to be more aware of their surroundings, and not constantly changing their surroundings, can also help. Construction sites may not be static areas, but we can at least avoid constantly moving things around that don’t need to be moved, which is not a standard that a lot of construction sites are willing to meet. You’ll hear some people talking about how workers need to be in good shape to prevent these problems, but once again, that’s placing the burden on them. I saw guys in great shape getting bodily reaction injuries on the job all the time.
People can wear fall protection, which I think is a necessity for workers on construction sites and similar areas. However, the prevention of falls to lower levels or to the same level usually just comes down to making sure that the scaffolding and the ladders are in good shape. The scaffolding needs to be inspected and maintained, or it just isn’t going to hold up. Scaffolding supports the weight of a lot of construction workers, in addition to a lot of different heavy power tools. It shouldn’t have to support any additional burdens.
Lots of other workers get injured on the job as a result of falling objects. This seems like a pretty ridiculous way to get injured, and it is, but it’s also one of the top five most common ways to get injured on the job. Usually, it’s a falling tool or piece of equipment that’s going to get the job done, and that happens often enough at construction sites and other places that it cost 4.10 billion dollars in 2010 in the United States.
Lots of these injuries can be avoided by getting workers to wear hardhats, but lots of workers in these jobs already do that. Safety glasses, goggles, and face shields can also help, but they’re not going to be fairy dust when a particularly large tool traveling at a particularly high velocity collides with your face. When heavy machinery is being operated, you need to make sure that you’re not actually under it or close enough to get hit with anything connected with it.
It is possible to prevent most workplace injuries, which can be attributed to cost-cutting negligence more than anything else. Workers cannot operate under the assumption that it will never happen to them, and bosses cannot operate under the assumption that OSHA guidelines are just there to annoy them and hurt their profit margins.