Occup Health Saf 2009 Jul; 78(7):36, 38, 40, 42-43
In Alabama, a framing crew member who was moving a roof truss into place while supporting himself on an 8-inch wide structural beam fell 27 feet to the ground inside the partially constructed building. The native Mexican laborer, who understood little English, was not wearing or using personal fall protection equipment. An 8-foot by 4-foot truss fell at the same time, striking the worker's head when he hit the ground. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. In North Carolina, a native Spanish-speaking laborer who was working on the second floor of a two-story home under construction fell through a 64-inch by 12-foot-long floor opening to a cement floor 10 feet below. The worker, who spoke very limited English, was not using fall protection, and there was no documentation that he had been trained in safety issues. He died of severe head trauma. And in Ohio, an OSHA compliance officer who made an unannounced visit to a preschool under construction found about half of the 80-foot trusses being installed were not braced properly. Some of the workers were on the high beams, and some were inside the building. The crew members were ordered to stop work immediately and to get away from the work site. Ten minutes later, the building's roof fell in and the walls collapsed. These incidents are among the many fatalities, injuries, and "near misses" that occur in construction each year when working from heights. According to "The Construction Chart Book, Fourth Edition," published by The Center for Construction Research and Training, falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries and the second most common cause of nonfatal injuries in construction. In 2005, 32 percent of 1,243 work-related deaths from injuries in construction were due to falls. From 2003-2005, 61 percent of fatal falls from suspended scaffolds and 53 percent of falls from aerial lifts were caused by the collapse of the scaffold or lift, "The Construction Chart Book" notes. Working from heights - whether it is on a roof or from a scaffold, aerial lift, crane, or ladder - is clearly hazardous. These hazards are exacerbated when crew members are in a rush to complete the job, have not had adequate safety training, are not using the appropriate protective equipment, or have limited literacy levels. Language issues can also be a major barrier to providing effective training and communication about job site hazards and their prevention. A June 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report notes that overall in the United States, 11,303 Hispanic workers died from job-related injuries between 1992 and 2006. The death rate for Hispanic workers was consistently higher than the rate for all U.S. workers. Contributing factors to the higher job-related deaths of Hispanic workers, the report states, include inadequate knowledge and control of recognized safety hazards and inadequate training and supervision of workers, often complicated by different languages and literacy levels.