Falls from elevation are one of the most prevalent causes of fatalities and injuries on construction sites. Many of these incidents occur on residential construction sites, where fall heights are relatively low (usually 30 feet or less) and the use of personal protective technologies (PPT) related to fall protection is not common. OSHA 1926 Subpart M contains an exemption for the use of PPTs related to falls on residential construction as long as the contractor uses a fall protection plan. The reasoning behind this exemption is to prevent undo financial burdens on small contractors and to not tie-off to points on a wooden structures which may not meet the standards of OSHA 1926 Subpart M. This difference between residential and commercial construction may suggest that falls are not a concern on residential construction sites, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics metastatistics and recent research demonstrate otherwise. Current residential construction methods, especially for a second story floor, do not lend themselves to providing useful anchorage points using typical equipment. Further use of fall arrest systems (FAS) for low-rise or residential construction faces several barriers including the lack of easy to use equipment, and workers attitudes about safety equipment. Both of these obstacles must be overcome to develop effective safety tools for fall prevention and to increase use compliance. We recently observed an innovative FAS that is currently used in the post frame construction industry. Post frame is a construction system relying on embedded posts and trusses covered with sheathing materials. The workers used a relatively simple set of elements to create anchor and tie-off points on the structure. The FAS did not impede the construction process and in some cases was integrated into the truss elements before they were raised from the ground. The workers for these companies have adopted the system and seem to use it willingly. The purpose of this research is to transfer the FAS observed in the post frame construction area to residential construction given its seemingly more usable design. This will necessitate redesign and further testing of some of the fall arrest elements. Also, measurement of worker attitudes and behavioral observation will be used to correlate safety climate with the implementation of the innovative FAS as well as introducing the concepts of usability.
The outcome of this project will be a simple and usable fall arrest system for residential construction, which has been verified by mechanical testing and improved by the worker usability study. This fall arrest system will have a direct impact upon the safety of construction workers in residential environments. Procedures and methods used suggest ways to incorporate worker usability and opinions into the design of future protective equipment.