Slips, trips, and falls are the most common injuries in the construction industry. The nature of construction work makes industry workplaces unsafe for workers, even when wearing protective equipment and following all protection requirements. The construction industry accounted for approximately 20.5% of all worker deaths on-the-job in 2020.
Below, an experienced construction accident attorney in New York City from William Schwitzer & Associates, P.C., describes OSHA’s (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) definitions of slips, trips, and falls. Learn more about OSHA slips, trips, and falls regulation, statistics, and prevention.
Definition of Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips and trips both have unique definitions, but both accidents can lead to a fall. Falls can occur on level ground or from an elevated stair, step, or platform. OSHA defines each term as the following:
- Slips. The loss of balance due to lack of friction between your foot and walking-working surfaces. Wet surfaces are the primary cause of slips, and friction-reducing substances include water, ice, oil, or improper shoe soles for the environment.
- Trips. The loss of balance caused by your foot striking an object while your walking momentum carries you forward, sometimes leading to a fall.
- Falls. As results of a slip or trip, falls account for the most workplace deaths than any other cause of injury.
OSHA training offers prevention methods for each of these injuries and their causes, including using the appropriate protective equipment, maintaining walking-working surfaces, and regularly holding safety training for workers on-site. You can find OSHA’s guidelines contained in the 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D Walking-Working Surfaces section of the Code of Federal Regulation.
Slips are often the result of wearing the wrong shoes or stepping on a wet surface. Remember that you can help prevent slips in the workplace by:
- Cleaning up or reporting spills immediately
- Cleaning up and disposing of oil and greasy films or residues appropriately
- Safely walking with short steps and toes turned slightly out
- Walking cautiously on smooth surfaces, wrinkled carpets, or uneven surfaces
Trips are often the result of obstructed views or improper equipment storage. You can help reduce the risk of trips in the workplace by:
- Using a team lift for bulky objects that could obstruct your view of your surroundings
- Storing equipment out of the way of walkways and paths
- Remove debris from work sites and use appropriate barricades to block off hazards
- Keep walking areas well-lit so workers can see potential hazards
- Alert the appropriate site managers to trip hazards
Falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities and include same-level and elevated falls. Slips and trips can both lead to fall injuries. You can reduce instances of falling at your job site by:
- Always using the appropriate stairs or ramps to change levels
- Never jumping from a platform, loading area, or ladder
- Keeping walkways clear of debris and well-lit
- Wearing the appropriate non-slip work shoes
- Wearing the appropriate safety harnesses and using protective equipment when working at elevation
- Covering work bays or pits when not in use
- Barricading large holes to prevent falls
What Are Some Common Construction Injury Slip, Trip, and Fall Risks?
The construction industry is particularly vulnerable to OSHA slips, trips, and falls regulation infractions that lead to injuries at job sites. Construction includes several high-risk jobs, including general contracting, roofing, bricklaying, excavation, demolition, cement pouring, electrical work, plumbing, HVAC, and more.
Construction work sites tend to be rife with hazards, especially as population booms increase the demand for new homes and more commercial centers. In the rush to construct new communities, developers often overlook safety as a hurdle to meeting certain deadlines.
Common risks in the construction industry include:
- Failing to install fall protection measures or use safety harnesses when working at elevated heights or near pits
- Trip hazards from equipment and materials being left around the job site
- Infrequent training on OSHA slip, trips, and falls regulations for workers on site
- Failing to ensure workers understand the chain of command to report hazards
- Failing to guard risk areas to prevent entry near the hazard
Employers are supposed to remove hazards or protect workers from potential injuries at the job site according to OSHA regulations. They are also supposed to install and teach supervisors how to use fall protection measures such as safety nets, safety harnesses, or guard rails to prevent falls and fall injuries.
Top Ten OSHA Frequently Cited Standards in Fiscal Year 2021
Between October 1, 2020, and September 30, 2021, OSHA inspected 24,333 job sites. OSHA can only visit so many job sites each year to inspect for infractions and make citations. 4,955 of the 24,333 OSHA inspections came from complaints against an employer. Inspectors across the country cited thousands of infractions, including these top 10 most frequently cited standards:
- Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
- Respiratory Protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134)
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
- Hazard Communication, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200)
- Scaffolding, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
- Fall Protection Training, construction (29 CFR 1926.503)
- Control of Hazardous Energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147)
- Eye and Face Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.102)
- Powered Industrial Trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178)
- Machinery and Machine Guarding, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212)
Five of the top ten citations are in construction, including infractions for fall protection, ladder safety, scaffolding protection, fall protection training, and eye and face protective equipment. Other infractions include general industry category citations that could affect construction workers, such as respiratory protection, hazard communication, and powered industrial trucks.
OSHA Slip, Trips, and Falls Regulation and Codes
In 2017, OSHA updated the standards for fall protection and training in construction (29 CFR 1926) with guidance from the general industry (29 CFR 1910) standards already in place. Key OSHA slips, trips, and falls regulation derives from standards for both industries.
29 CFR 1926 (Construction)
29 CFR 1926 deals with construction industry regulations, including fall protection and scaffolding and ladder safety.
29 CFR 1926.500-503 covers an employer’s responsibility to have fall protection, fall protection systems requirements and implementation, and fall protection training requirements.
29 CFR 1926.450-454 covers scaffolding safety, including safe access and fall protection for scaffolding erectors and dismantlers.
29 CFR 1926.1053 details ladder safety requirements, including ladder sizes, maximum loads, and additional safety precautions, such as the implementation of metal spreaders or locking mechanisms to hold a ladder open.
While 29 CFR 1926.34 describes construction regulations for means of egress, certain codes under general industry utilize a higher standard for maintaining walking-working surfaces and exit route safety.
29 CFR 1910 (General Industry)
29 CFR 1910 covers general industry regulations, including maintenance of walking-working surfaces, exit routes in case of emergency, and duty to have fall protection and protection from falling objects.
29 CFR 1910.22 describes the employer’s requirements to maintain walking-working surfaces free from hazards, repair any surfaces that could pose a danger to employee safety, and use appropriate drainage in wet areas that could become slippery.
29 CFR 1910.36 covers design and construction requirements for exit routes, including standard and emergency exits, as well as guardrail requirements for outdoor exit routes.
29 CFR 1910.37 regulates maintenance and safeguards for workers during construction or other work at the job site.
Contact a New York City Construction Industry Injury Attorney for Worker’s Comp Claims
The information above about OSHA slips, trips, and falls regulation applies to thousands of construction worker injuries each year. Learn what the average construction accident settlement is in New York, and contact us at William Schwitzer & Associates, P.C., for a free case evaluation for your construction job site accident injuries.
Call us today at 212-683-3800 or contact us online to speak with an experienced personal injury and worker’s comp attorney about your case. At William Schwitzer & Associates, P.C., we have helped injured clients recover millions of dollars from negligent employers across New York City.