Work-related falls from roofs remain a significant problem for workers in the construction industry. Knowledge about the main causative factors leading to fall incidents is needed for fall prevention intervention. From biomechanical and psychophysiological (relationship between physical and mental) perspectives, the majority of occupational falls, including falls from roofs, may be regarded as loss-of-balance incidents.
This essay summarizes factors that are related to the control of balance during roofing work. Environmental, task-related and personal factors that reduce the control of balance could be associated with falls from roofs.
These factors include:
• visual exposure to elevation;
• unstable visual cues and inadequate visual information in the work environment;
• 'confined' and inclined support surfaces;
• unexpected changes in roof surface properties;
• load handling;
• physical exertion;
• task complexity that diverts workers' attention;
• individual differences;
• work experience and training; and
• personal protective equipment.
Current, legally required measures, to reduce falls from roofs, focus mainly on fall protection procedures, such as the use of covers, guardrails, safety nets and personal fall-arrest systems, or the application of warning-line systems, safety monitoring systems and fall protection plans. In many instances, as those working in these situations will tell you, these procedures are not always practical for the industry.
Future research on preventing falls from roofs should consider the main effects and interactions of the environmental, task-related and personal factors that affect the balance control of workers. Research-supported improvements in the visual and physical characteristics of the roof work environment, the construction materials and methods, and work procedures and practices may result in improved workers' balance control as well as overall safety performance to ultimately reduce incidents of falling from a roof.
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