Construction workers working on scaffolding.
Construction workers working on scaffolding.

Construction site safety tips: Working at heights

The construction industry has deep roots in North America, and though tools and techniques have improved over time, a number of risks are still prevalent. In fact, 1 in 5 workplace fatalities in 2020 were in the construction industry. And fatal falls are still the top cause of death among construction workers and contractors. Because of these risks, it’s vital to have a comprehensive site safety plan in place.

3 common equipment problems that lead to falls

Construction jobs require a range of specialized equipment, and that can make monitoring and upkeep a bit of a chore. However, it’s a chore you don’t want to skip, since ladders, scaffolding, and fall protection are at the heart of a good construction site safety program. Consider improving your safety practices when it comes to using these common pieces of equipment.


Ladders seem relatively straightforward: make sure it’s stable, then go on up. Of course, any piece of equipment with many joints or load-bearing platforms – like a ladder – can become a major safety hazard, especially with wear and tear.

Another problem with a “straightforward” piece of equipment is that you could begin to get far too comfortable with it. If you lean a bit too far, or trust your footing a bit too much, you could find yourself tumbling to the ground.

Ladder safety involves checks, focus, and careful consideration about the consequences of misuse, so keep these construction safety tips in mind when it comes to updating your ladder safety regimen:

  • Inspect each ladder before using it. Unsafe ladders should be tagged and removed from site.
  • Always face the ladder while climbing and descending.
  • Always keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times – two hands and a foot or vice versa.
  • The top rung of the ladder is not a step. (Unless it was specifically designed to be one.)
  • Only place ladders on stable, level surfaces (not uneven ground, boxes, or barrels).
  • Make sure the top of your straight ladder extends at least three feet above the point of support when positioning it, and tie the top and bottom to secure points for extra stability.
  • Check the locks on extension ladders before using them.
  • Put barriers around the ladder if it’s being used in a high-traffic area.
  • When considering the amount of weight a ladder can safely hold, don’t forget to factor in any tools or materials you happen to be holding while standing on it.

Scaffolding and other elevated platforms

Scaffolding is an integral part of a construction site, and potentially the most dangerous for workers. After all, this sort of raised platform not only exposes workers to falls, but also to electrocutions and falling objects.

Careful tool placement and being conscious of weight limits will help you work safely on a scaffold. Here are some other construction safety tips you might want to consider:

  • Make sure the scaffolding is safe before using it. Have trained people assemble the scaffold, and schedule regular inspections by a qualified inspector (ideally, a professional engineer).
  • Never exceed the load capacity of the platforms with equipment, materials, or workers.
  • Include at least two guardrails (three, if you count the toe board) on each side of the platform. Removing them temporarily to load large materials is fine; just make sure to reinstall them as soon as you’re able.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn on scaffolds. This includes standard head and foot protection plus a harness when necessary. If a harnessed worker falls off a platform, they should be returned to a safe, stable surface and unhooked as soon as possible. Dangling from a harness may cut off circulation and become life threatening.
  • Keep the scaffolds free of any tools and materials that aren’t being used, as there isn’t a lot of space up there to begin with.
  • Block off the area on the ground below the scaffold to protect passersby from materials and items that may fall off the platform.


A personal fall arrest system can be great insurance against a disastrous fall on a construction site – but only if it’s in perfect working order. Like any important tool, harnesses should be inspected closely and frequently, and always used properly. After all, your body is literally on the line.

When inspecting your harness, consider these tips:

  • Make sure the harness is working properly and free of damage
  • Make sure that the lanyard or lifeline is short enough to prevent you from making contact with a lower level if you were to fall.

Safety nets and lanyards involved in personal fall arrest systems will prevent you from falling a great distance; only guardrails can actually prevent a fall from occurring. Employers and employees alike should play a part in ensuring a safe work environment, which means management should consider installing toe boards, screens or guardrails, and canopies or barricades where appropriate.

Ensure you’re protected

Regular inspection, thorough training, and comprehensive safety and actions plans should play major roles in your construction site safety strategy. It’s difficult to monitor and control all aspects of your daily operations, and maintenance could get lost in the shuffle. That’s why it’s important to invest in comprehensive coverage. Learn more by visiting our Construction and Contractors page today!

This blog is provided for information only and is not a substitute for professional advice. We make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information and will not be responsible for any loss arising out of reliance on the information.

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