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Protection from Falling

Did you know that the highest percentage of injuries and largest amount of claim dollars paid in the Habitat Affiliate Insurance Program occur because of a fall at a jobsite?  We are seeing falls from both volunteers and employees, and the most serious injuries come from falls off of ladders or scaffolding.  Therefore, we recommend that only the most experienced people on the jobsite should be allowed to work off of ladders or scaffolds, and that jobsite safety be focused around proper assembly and usage of these items.  Now that we recognize this, we should do everything we can to minimize the likelihood that someone will fall and get hurt.   

Protective Measures

Fall Arrest System – Probably the best form of protection a worker on a job site can engage in is to wear a Fall Arrest System. These systems are designed to be user-friendly and non-intrusive while providing continuous, complete and uncompromising safety while working at height. They are made up of a body harness, shock-absorbing lanyards, carabineers, cross straps and cables, and are proven to be an effective method of reducing falls and save lives. Use of a Fall Arrest System involves tying off the body harness to a stabilized point that won’t allow him or her to fall more than 6 feet.

Proper Footwear – Not all shoes are made for working on the jobsite – it is important to wear slip-resistant shoes. Rubber-soled boots typically provide better traction than leather-soled boots. Most importantly, whatever footwear you decide to wear, be sure they are in good condition and the soles are clean.

Guardrails – Install guardrails around floor openings and openings in walls when the fall distance is 6 feet or greater. Toprails should be 39 to 45 inches tall, and the midrail should be halfway between the toprail and the floor. Rails must be able to withstand a 200 pound load.

Ladder Safety – There are many things consider regarding safe practices when using ladders. Basic tips include the following: Ladders should extend 3 feet above the landing to provide a hand-hold; they should be sturdy and placed on stable ground; only one person should use or be on a ladder at a time; and a person should never stand above the third rung from the top. Please see our March 2008 article for more comprehensive tips on Ladder Safety.

Scaffold Safety – If scaffolds are being used on the jobsite, ensure that they are set up under the supervision of a competent person according to OSHA guidelines. All scaffolds need appropriate guardrails and platform planking. Improper scaffold setup is a major cause of falls from scaffolding.

Skylights – Skylights should be protected with a cage. They are not built to hold the weight of a person. Should someone trip and fall on the skylight, the cage provides protection from a fall through a skylight.

Lighting – Ensure there is adequate light for workers to see their workspace. This is a simple task that will help prevent accidents. If work is being done after dark, use proper lighting.

Following these safety tips can help keep your volunteers and employees from needlessly suffering a serious injury from falling. Take charge, and make sure your volunteers and employees understand, and practice, these safety tips.

And remember to always get a signed waiver from all volunteers prior to them working on the jobsite! If you have any questions about this information please call the Habitat for Humanity Affiliate Insurance Program at (888) 553-9002.