Scand J Work Environ Health 2010;36(3):258-265 Download:
Fall prevention among apprentice carpenters
Objectives Falls from heights are a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the construction industry, especially among inexperienced workers. We surveyed apprentice carpenters to identify individual and organizational factors associated with falls from heights.
Methods We developed a 72-item survey on fall prevention with multiple domains including fall experience, fall-prevention knowledge, risk perceptions, confidence in ability to prevent falls, training experience, and perceptions of the safety climate and crew safety behaviors. We administered the questionnaire to apprentice carpenters in this cross-sectional study.
Results Of the 1025 respondents, 51% knew someone who had fallen from a height at work and 16% had personally fallen in the past year, with ladders accounting for most of the falls. Despite participation in school-based and on-the-job training, fall-prevention knowledge was poor. Ladders were perceived as low risk and ladder training was rare. Apprentices reported high levels of unsafe, fall-related behaviors on their work crews. Apprentices in residential construction were more likely to fall than those in commercial construction, as were apprentices working on crews with fewer senior carpenters to provide mentorship, and those reporting more unsafe behaviors among fellow workers.
Conclusions Despite participation in a formal apprenticeship program, many apprentices work at heights without adequate preparation and subsequently experience falls. Apprenticeship programs can improve the timing and content of fall-prevention training. This study suggests that organizational changes in building practices, mentorship, and safety practices are also necessary to decrease worker falls from heights.