Injury statistics show that framing is one of the most dangerous specialty construction trades.
Framing is dangerous work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 the incidence rate of recordable nonfatal injuries and illnesses for this group was 7.5.
The bulk of the injuries involving days away from work were caused by one of three types of events or exposures:
- Struck by an object (820 injuries)
- Slips, trips and falls (500 injuries)
- Caught in or compressed or crushed (340 injuries)
Most of the falls were to lower levels.
As with most construction injuries, framing injuries are largely preventable with the right measures.
To prevent struck-by-object injuries:
- Keep materials and equipment at least 6 feet from the leading edge unless a guardrail is in place. Remember that per OSHA, guardrail systems used as falling object protection should have openings small enough to block the passage of potential falling objects.
- Install toe boards in addition to guardrails to prevent items from falling from scaffolding.
- Cover holes, gaps and other voids unless they are blocked by guardrails on all sides. OSHA requires that hole covers be color-coded or marked with the word “hole” or “cover.” The cover must be able to support at least twice the weight of workers, equipment and materials that may be on it at any given time.
- Remind workers to wear appropriate PPE and maintain situational awareness.
To prevent falls and fall injuries:
- Have the appropriate protections in place. Residential construction workers working 6 feet or more above lower levels must be protected by a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall arrest system. This standard, 1926.501(b)(13), is one of the most frequently cited by OSHA.
- Teach workers the correct way to don a body harness and choose good anchor points. Remember, employers are obligated to provide training programs for employees who might be exposed to fall hazards.
- Enforce ladder safety. For example, extension ladders should extend at least 3 feet past the platform. The ladder should be placed one-quarter of its working length away from the supporting wall. Workers should maintain three points of contact when ascending or descending.
- Have a fall rescue plan in place in the event that a fall to a lower level occurs. If you don’t, a worker who falls while wearing a body harness risks “harness hang syndrome,” which can lead to unconsciousness and even death.
To prevent other injuries:
- Guard against reinforcing steel impalement. As a sample toolbox talk from the National Framers Council reminds, all protruding reinforcing steel should be guarded, capped or bent so as to diminish the risk of impalement.
- Train in the proper use of nail guns. Pneumatic nail gun injuries are all too common among wood framing contractors. It’s up to the employer to effectively train workers on the proper use of these tools. One California contractor was recently fined $225,500 for failing to do so after a worker who was carrying a nail gun with his finger on the trigger (instead of by the handle only) accidentally discharged a nail into his other arm.
In general, when it comes to working safe, adequate training is always the best strategy. (It’s also the law.) United Academy, the training branch of United Rentals, offers classroom, online and blended learning classes in fall protection and other topics. But don’t stop there. Hold regular toolbox talks and use them to remind workers about specific hazards they may face on the job that day and the steps they should take to mitigate them.