Incident: Fall from roof
Industry: Painting and wall covering contractors
The company was a small business that did residential and small commercial painting jobs. The owner ran the business from his home with his wife, who did the clerical work. They had just hired their first employee and it was his first day on the job.
The new employee had been hired to work on an as-needed basis whenever there were jobs that the owner could not handle alone. The job involved painting the gutters, trim, and siding of a two-story house over two days. The ground-to-eave height of the first story was eight feet and the roof had a 15-degree pitch.
The plan was to have the owner use the paint spray gun while the new employee would help with setup and cleanup, and paint with a brush and roller. The two men met at the job site at 8 a.m. and the owner had a 15-minute toolbox talk with the new employee about ladder safety and staying hydrated in the warm weather. The owner told the new employee – who was wearing job-appropriate trousers, a T-shirt, and new sneakers – that he did not have to perform any work he felt uncomfortable doing.
They set up a 16-foot extension ladder in front of the garage and spent the morning taping the brick columns in the front of the house and setting up a tarp to protect the windows.
They worked together painting the house in the morning and then split up to do separate jobs on the house in the afternoon – the owner doing the spray painting at the back of the house and the new employee working in front, doing trim work on the rake edge of the second-story roof with a brush and roller. This was the first time that the two men were not working side-by-side during the job.
At 3 p.m., the owner heard a loud noise in front of the house and went around to investigate.
He saw the new employee lying on the concrete driveway and the homeowner trying to revive him with CPR. They called an ambulance, which took the employee to the hospital.
The employee's injuries included a subdural hematoma, a closed head injury with brief loss of consciousness, and midline low back pain. He was discharged the next day; however, he was readmitted for further testing and remained in the hospital for two more days. He has been in recovery since the incident and has not returned to work. He remembers painting the trim work, but has no memory of the fall or how it happened. There were no witnesses and no evidence that could point to a particular cause of the fall.
Eight-foot falls have consequences just serious as falls from 10 feet or more, especially when concrete stops the fall. Fall protection could have spared this employee a trip to the hospital and a long recovery from a debilitating injury. Choosing the right type of fall protection for a job is not always easy, but it's usually possible – especially today when so many different types of equipment are available.
Oregon OSHA sent the company a hazard letter advising that the trigger height for fall protection in the construction industry will change from 10 feet to six feet on Jan. 1, 2017.
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