The leading cause of serious construction-related accidents in Oregon this year: Falls from elevation
That fact may not be surprising, but each accident is a unique case that offers a lesson worth remembering. Through Oct. 15 this year, there have been 23 construction-related accidents reported to Oregon OSHA in which at least one worker required overnight hospitalization, and there were four accidents in which workers died because of their injuries – a total of 27 cases. Nineteen of those 27 cases were the result of falls from these elevated surfaces:
Below are 10 brief descriptions of those falls. Cases not included are still under investigation.
Falls from roofs
- A worker who was not wearing any fall protection slipped and fell 13.5 feet as he was walking across a roof. Ironically, he landed on the owner of his company.
- A worker who refused his supervisor's request to wear fall protection fell 18 to 20 feet while reaching for a bundle of shingles. He said the lanyard on his retractable lifeline was not long enough to reach the area where he was retrieving the shingles. He fell on a wooden fence, and then struck his head on the concrete foundation of an adjacent building.
- A worker who was on the eave of a roof preparing to measure a gutter, slipped and fell 8 feet, 7 inches to a concrete patio. He did not want co-workers to call 911 and refused their requests for help. Later, he asked co-workers to take him to a hospital. He had a fractured pelvis, five broken ribs, ruptured spleen, fractured elbow, contusion in his lung, and a damaged lower intestine.
Falls from ladders
- A worker was taking a measurement of an eave for an overhang from the fifth or sixth rung of a 10-foot extension ladder that was propped up against a 6-inch square wood post. He leaned to look at something, the ladder suddenly shifted to the left, and he fell, fracturing his left hip. The ladder's capacity was rated at 200 pounds – the worker weighed 250 pounds.
- A worker placed a 32-foot extension ladder on unstable dirt and rock so that he could clip nails protruding along a soffit. As he began working, the ladder slid 18 inches along the ground; he lost his balance and fell 15 feet. He was unable to walk and another worker (his son) drove him to the hospital. He had broken so many bones in his foot and ankle that several surgeries were necessary to repair the damage.
Fall from counter top
- A worker was standing on a counter top about 30 inches above the floor painting a wall at the ceiling line. He apparently lost his balance and fell backward, impaling himself on one of the 1-inch-diameter posts on small collapsible baker scaffold that he was using to hold paint. Nearby was an eight-foot stepladder that he could have used for the task.
Fall in scissor lift
- Two workers were severely injured when their scissor lift tipped over as they were doing remodeling work on a ceiling. They had tied one end of a 50-foot extension cord around the lift's guardrail and plugged the other end into a spider box some distance away from the lift. Meanwhile, a skid steer loader clearing debris from the area ran over the cord, which caught in the machine and pulled the lift over. The project manager later said that tying off cords to scissor lifts would no longer be an accepted practice and that extension cords would be plugged to the appropriate receptacles on lifts.
Fall from interior ledge
- A worker had just come down to the second floor of a home after loading bundles of shingles on the roof. He was going to load two or three bundles of 65- to 80-pound shingles on the second floor so that the roofers could use them on the overhang above the garage and the front door. He decided to stand on a 2-foot-wide ledge inside one of the rooms on the second floor so that he could retrieve the bundles through a window opening from a truck-mounted conveyer. As he reached for the first bundle, he stepped back and fell to the floor, a distance of 10 feet, 1 inch. He was a temporary worker and had received generic fall protection training from the temp agency and had training on fall protection for loading shingles on roofs. He said he had no idea at what height workers were required to use fall protection and he had not been trained about working near other unguarded surfaces.
Fall in suspended work basket
- A worker was in a suspended work basket pressure washing a tower. The basket was attached by a single wire rope to an I-beam trolley. As he was lowering the basket, it caught on a piece of structural steel. When he tried to dislodge the basket, the trolley rolled off the end of the I-beam because of a notch in the bottom of the beam. His fall protection stopped him as the basket dropped away, but he swung into the structural steel and was suspended 40 feet in the air. The worker later said that he had not inspected the beam to ensure that it was free of defects before he began the job.
Fall from truck into excavation
- A truck was delivering a trench box intended for an 11-foot-deep trench. A worker climbed up on the side of the truck to the top of the trench box to hook it up so that it could be lowered into the trench. As he was climbing down, using the side of the truck instead of the steps on the opposite side, he lost his footing and fell 5 feet to the ground. He landed on his feet, but then stumbled and fell backward into the trench. He had multiple fractures as a result of the fall and remained in intensive care for more than a month.
Fall from temporary framework
- Four workers were 10 to 15 feet above the ground installing nine trusses that had a combined weight of 1,700 pounds on a temporary framework when the framework collapsed. All four workers were injured and one was hospitalized. None of the workers had formal training on the construction of temporary frameworks or bracing to support loads.