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How employers can address fall hazards during construction

Many construction workers in Oklahoma and around the country die annually from falls that occur while they are erecting exterior and interior walls in residential structures. Employers can help to reduce falls and increase safety at the workplace by taking precautionary steps in addressing these workplace hazards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide sufficient training for any employee who is involved in working from heights of 6 feet or more off the lower level. Employers must identify fall hazards in the workplace and purchase safety equipment and materials to ensure that employees stay safe while installing walls.

Besides using pre-fabricated wall panels, employers should use wall jacks or forklifts to hoist wall panels in place. Scaffolds and guardrail systems should also be available for construction workers who are installing walls and windows at upper levels. Additionally, a safety device known as a personal fall arrest system utilizes a full-body harness to protect workers who are erecting and framing walls. Employers must abide by government regulations in the proper use of all safety equipment.

Construction companies that work from heights of 6 feet or more and choose not to use fall restraint systems, aerial lifts, scaffolds or ladders must prove to OSHA that the use of such equipment would actually increase workplace dangers. The agency also requires the employer to provide a written fall protection plan for the particular workplace, which must be written by a qualified individual and comply with 29 CFR 1926.502(k).

Employees who suffer injuries from construction workers' accidents are entitled to file for workers' compensation benefits. Oklahoma workers' compensation cases cover a broad gamut of work injuries, from temporary disability to total permanent disability. Injured workers might also be entitled to a settlement for a partial permanent disability award if their work-related injuries result in permanent work restrictions.

Source: OSHA, "Reducing Falls during Residential Construction: Erecting Exterior and Interior Walls," Accessed March 25, 2015

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