Fall protection. We oftentimes hear these two words when we talk about safety. But many times we overlook the very thing that keeps our hard hats from having to be replaced from fall damage due to overhead construction - safety nets. While hard hats are a vital part of construction safety, we should celebrate each day that we get to go home without having to replace them. In big cities, a lot of times this can be thanks to safety nets on site. According to OSHA standard 1926.105(a), safety nets are required for any construction being performed above 25' above the ground or water, or where the use of ladders, scaffolds, safety lines, or safety belts is impractical. The mesh size of the nets cannot exceed 6"x 6" due to the fact that objects that drop are oftentimes small, and can slip through netting that is any bigger.
Construction safety netting is required by OSHA standard 1926.105(c)(1) to extend at least 8' out horizontally from the working area and is required to be as close to the underside of the working area as possible, no more than 25' underneath. This is to ensure that even the most serious mishaps and drops will not allow objects to be dropped from heights, and that when heavier objects are dropped, they cannot gain enough momentum to penetrate through the net.
Installers of construction safety nets are usually done by site certified personnel only. This usually includes either a 2 or a 4 year degree safety professional. If the site safety personnel is not certified to do so, then an outside source will be called in. This would include companies that only do fall protection work around the United States, or even around the world. Many outsourced construction safety net companies have staff on-hand to train site safety personnel in the installation and maintenance of construction nets, as a well maintained construction net could be the difference in life or death for nearby workers or civilians.
According to OSHA.gov, falling objects are the second leading cause of workplace injuries outside of falling itself. The reports show that on average, one worker is struck by a falling object every 10 minutes in the United States alone. See the graphic below for a more detailed breakdown on how falling object injuries are injuring men and women across the country.
So what should you do if you're working at heights and notice there is no safety netting in the event that tools or equipment might fall below deck? Stop all work in your area and notify your supervisor or safety manager on site so that the proper preventative measures can be put in place for the well being of the crew as well as the civilians near the site. Ten minutes may not seem like a long time, but 10 minutes on an unsafe construction site could mean a lifetime.