I recently started helping track worker fatalities over at The Weekly Toll, and it has been quite a harrowing couple of weeks. There’s something about waiting to get news of another fatality– a fatality that more than likely could have been prevented– that leaves me feeling a little edgy, maybe even a little sick. Which is why for the last couple of weeks I have been wringing my hands at the number of deaths resulting from falls. Falls from roofs, falls from water towers, falls down elevator shafts…. you get the idea. And maybe I’ve been a little naive, because apparently, fatal falls don’t happen once and a while. They happen ALL THE TIME.
Just to give you an idea what I’m talking about, here are some excerpts from my posts:
AUG 14, FARGO, ND: Construction worker falls three stories from roof down the elevator shaft.
AUG 12, GAINESVILLE, VA: A temporary worker falls off a ladder while cleaning a tower at an asphalt plant.
AUG 12, GREENWOOD, IN: A lift breaks, causing two construction workers– a father and son– to fall. The father dies three days later.
AUG 11, NORTH LIMA, OH: Water tower painter falls 83 feet to his death.
AUG 11, PRUE, OK: Worker falls 30-50 feet from oil derrick.
AUG 6, SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ: Warehouse employee falls 25 feet from storage rack.
AUG 5, NEW YORK CITY, NY: Two window washers are thrown from their cherry picker and fall 40 feet.
AUG 1, WACO, TX: Construction worker falls 30-35 feet off the roof of a distribution center.
JULY 31, NEW YORK, NY: Maintenance worker falls from the roof of a five-story building.
JULY 31, TIFTON, NY: Sign worker falls 22 feet from catwalk of billboard to the ground.
JULY 31, GREENBRAE, CA: Apartment complex painter falls 40 feet from scaffolding.
JULY 30, SMITHVILLE, TX: Manlift worker killed in 60-foot fall from crane.
JULY 30, SHORT PUMP, VA: Construction worker falls 60 feet from upper floor of hotel under construction.
Do you see the trend here? Are you getting my drift?
So you can probably imagine how wonderful it felt on Friday, when I got not one, but TWO Google alerts reminding me not only that fall protection exists, but that it can save lives!
Check out these headlines:
# 1, from the Sun Sentinel: Workers rescued after dangling from high-rise for 45 minutes.
A scaffold collapses at a Fort Lauderdale high rise, and three workers fall. Sounds like a tragedy. But wait! Fall protection to the rescue!!
#2, from the Indy Star: 3 workers hang off high-rise for an hour after scaffold drops.
A scaffold outside the 28th floor of an office building suddenly drops in Indianapolis, and again, three workers fall. BUT AGAIN, the three are saved by their harnesses, and rescued by firefighters.
Now don’t get me wrong, I realize it can’t be fantastic to be suspended in mid-air hoping someone notices something’s gone awry and calls the fire department to come rescue you. Then again, I don’t know about you, but I’d sure as heck take that over suddenly plummeting 20+ stories to my death. Something tells me that wouldn’t just be MY preference.
So please, can we take a moment to realize the value of fall protection? There are six men alive today that wouldn’t have seen this weekend if they hadn’t been wearing safety harnesses that were actually attached to something. All of those folks I mentioned above? They didn’t get that luxury.
Employers everywhere, PLEASE make sure that your employees have all the necessary fall protection equipment, that they know how to use it, and that they DO use it. Make it your responsibility, not their prerogative.
Until then, I guess I’ll be sitting here, waiting for the next fatality, praying it won’t come, and knowing, inevitably, that it will.