Have you noticed lately that you see netting in places such as playgrounds, sporting events, and retail stores? All to protect us, however, nettings most important duties lie in construction.
The No. 1 cause of death in the construction industry is from falls, followed by struck-by and caught between. The reality is that netting can help reduce the severity of these incidents – and more often, can be the final line of defense to reduce the distance once a fall has occurred. It can be the difference between going home or not.
Fall protection/prevention is essential because construction workers will work at an elevation at some point in their careers. The longer an individual works at elevated heights, the more likely they are to encounter a fall. Workers become overconfident, becoming complacent [I’ve done this 100 times before. It’s only going to take a second for an accident to occur.]– the perfect storm. If you are not wearing the correct PPE, or attached to an inadequate anchor point, it happens. Once you pass that point of no return, a safety net would be the last barrier to stop the fall. There are no instant re-plays, no rewinds, the “shoulda-coulda’s” are irrelevant now.
OSHA 1926.502, employers shall provide fall protection when working six feet or more above a lower level at all times. Fall protection shall include administrative controls [first line], engineering controls [handrail, safety netting], or the last line of defense, PPE.
What if you had employees working around openings in a floor or on a roof, how would you protect them? In these scenarios one of three things usually happen, 1] We incorrectly address the situation, 2] We use incorrect equipment to solve the problem, 3] We do nothing.
What if you knew you were going to have a worker fall today, what would you do? Shut the project down, stay on the ground level and away from the leading edge, or install a safety system to prevent this from happening. [Issue] We all face these choices every day on construction projects. The reality is we do not know when an incident will occur. So why do we wait to see if it may happen, when we can choose to make the difference.
Covering an opening would be considered a simple task, or so we think so. So how would we correct this issue according
to OSHA? We could place plywood or something similar and secure the opening [2 times the intended load], we could
place caution tape around the opening [handrail or netting]. Could utilizing the proper material solve the issue?
[Issue] There are too many instances where these issues are overlooked, or we are in a hurry to
get the job done. These decisions can and do cost lives each year.
What do we do?
In New York City, buildings are wrapped in netting [Local Law 33], both vertical and horizontal. It is designed to keep debris and personnel from falling to lower levels. This protects both the workers and pedestrian below. It aids in reducing property damage as well.
Worksites that are located in crowded areas, pose a higher risk to pedestrians and construction workers for being struck by debris. Items such as tools, wood, steel, and concrete all have the potential to fall from a building. The consequences of being struck by one of these objects can be catastrophic to someone below.
Netting is an essential part of safety on all worksites. The fact is, fall protection when used properly can, and does save lives. This is the one area we do have control to make a difference if we choose. The three most important words every day, Honey I’m Home
- 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M, Fall protection. OSHA Standard.
- 502, Fall protection systems criteria and practices
- 502(c), Safety net systems
- Worker Deaths by Falls: A Summary of Surveillance Findings and Investigative Case Reports. US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Publication 2000-116, (2000, September).