Television viewers around the globe are interested in drama shows that portray harrowing incidents, emergencies, and rescues. But responding to sudden workplace hazards such as falls from heights or slips on the ground that result in severe injuries is not a fictional drama!
Falls are the most common cause of fatalities in the construction sector. Over the last ten years, nearly 3,500 construction workers died from falls, with thousands more suffering severe injuries. Nearly half of fall fatalities across all industries are in the construction sector and lack of fall protection is cited as the most frequently violated regulation in OSHA’s report.
Construction workers are also prone to severe injuries since they must work around heavy machines, climb to great heights, or work on roadsides where they are exposed to oncoming traffic. Similar critical events might stir up heartbreaking news headlines such as "A construction worker who works at X company falls to his death while working on a construction site." This will attract negative attention and point fingers at what should have been done to save the worker.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- 27% of all non-fatal work injuries resulting in days missed from work resulted from slips, trips, and falls.
- The three most common workplace injuries requiring ER treatment are those who contacted objects and equipment, overexertion, and falls.
OSHA previously used the term “Fatal Four” to describe the four most common causes of worker fatalities on construction sites in America as follows:
- Falls (account for 33.5% of construction worker fatalities)
- Struck by objects (account for 11.1% of construction worker fatalities)
- Electrocutions (account for 8.5% of construction worker fatalities)
- Caught-in/between (account for 5.5% of construction worker fatalities)
Complying with OSHA's rules and standards will ensure that workers operate in safer working conditions, thus requiring employers to keep their workplace free of potential hazards. However, critical events happen with no warning, and a practical response plan is necessary to handle the situation with minimal losses.
The better way
The contingency plan / Emergency Response plan for critical events must be proactive, not reactive because there is no telling when a workplace accident or injury may occur. Plan, so you’re ready, whether that day is today, tomorrow, or in three years! Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be assigned, and for whom, how to monitor/ handle potential critical events, and how to monitor staff location.
Remember that a contingency plan promotes safety awareness and shows that an organization is committed to the safety of its workers. Lack of planning could lead to severe losses such as multiple casualties and potential financial collapse for your business.
Pre-planning will reduce stress and confusion when an incident occurs. No one needs to be caught off guard in times of crisis, so every action you take now can make a life-or-death difference in the future.
A key consideration that must be taken into account when planning to deal with fall incidents is the pre-selection of responders, both internal and external, and by identifying their roles. Establishing a good crisis response team begins by selecting a team leader to coordinate tasks and involve external parties when needed, such as ambulance, authorities, insurance, etc. By connecting these key individuals, an organization can handle an incident effectively thus protecting lives, mitigating damages, and upholding its reputation.
Although it may seem like a no-brainer, workplace safety training is one of the most overlooked and essential requirements in the construction industry. But unfortunately, it is during a severe event that business owners will realize that safety training impacts all their primary business goals. Training should not be a one-time experience during the onboarding process, but rather a continuous element of a worker’s career. Every worker should be trained on proper set-up, safe use of equipment, and be prepared to respond and act during critical events. This can be accomplished by simulating an actual critical event in a drill or training exercise. This leaves room for error and correction to improve performance and knowledge acquisition. There is no time for learning curves in a crisis.
Lack of planning could lead to severe losses such as multiple casualties and potential financial collapse for your business. Pre-planning will reduce stress and confusion when an incident occurs. No one needs to be caught off guard in times of crisis, so every action you take now can make a life-or-death difference in the future.
Tips for identifying crisis response teams & their roles
The plan should identify the related internal and external stakeholders to respond to and manage a crisis:
- Establish a crisis response team beginning with a team leader responsible for coordinating activities.
- Identify external related parties that need to be involved in a time of need.
- Regularly meet to discuss step-by-step plans for specific emergencies.
- Define each person's role before, during, and after a crisis.
- Assign responsibility and allocate tasks.
- Have regular drills and meetings to measure response levels and discuss progress or update plans.
- Remember to review the documented event handling to evaluate team performance.
Advice for trainers
The training drill must be short, engaging, and easy to follow
Scenario-based training encourages all employees to participate which will help them remember the information that has been taught and tasks that they have been assigned.
According to OSHA, your training must cover several topics such as life-saving equipment, fall protection, and scaffold and ladder safety.