Safety Study Suggests Roofers Will Take More Risks with Fall Protection in Place

Year after year, construction workers top the lists for the most dangerous occupations due to workplace fatalities and injuries in this industry. They are often part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s most commonly cited statistics list, such as one in five workplace fatalities in the private sector occurs in the construction industry. But why does construction work continue to be so dangerous? A new study published in the ASCE Journal of Construction Management may have at least part of the answer: When workers feel protected by safety equipment, they may be more likely to take risks. Find out more about this study and what it means to you. 

Construction Accident Rates Increase Alongside Safety Measures

Workplaces in the United States have become increasingly safer with automation, new technology, hazard abatement, personal protective equipment, and safety regulations. However, safety risks on construction sites still continue. 

Researchers conducted a study to measure the cognitive bias that workers may take more risks if they perceive that safety measures protect them. Engineers had observed an increase in risk taking behavior in motorists who chose to drive faster when their vehicles were equipped with more effective safety equipment. They wanted to see if this phenomenon existed in other environments. Researchers were drawn to the roofing industry because of the high number of construction accident deaths due to falls.

A co-author of the study explained that each person has their own risk tolerance level. However, when people feel safer, they have the natural tendency to increase risk-taking behavior. This concept is known as “risk compensation,” and safety engineers first observed it about 30 years ago. 

Results of the Study

Researchers devised a system in which study subjects trained to complete a roofing task in a mixed-reality environment. Researchers taught study subjects how to install roofing shingles, using a real sloped-roof assembly and virtual reality that created the sensation of height. Researchers simulated wind and sound that represented a typical suburban roofing project. Study subjects wore virtual reality 3-D glasses with embedded location sensors and ankle sensors that tracked their locations.

Researchers divided the subjects into groups who had different levels of protection. One group wore only personal protective equipment (PPE), which consisted of a hard hat, gloves, and knee pads. Another group wore PPE and had a fall-arrest system. The final group had PPE, a fall arrest system, and a perimeter guardrail.

Researchers suspected that the more safety measures were in place, the closer to the roof’s edge the study subjects would go. This suspicion was confirmed. The group with the most safety measures took greater risks than the other groups.

Researchers found that workers are more likely to take more risks when they feel protected by safety measures like perimeter barriers and tie-offs on roofs. However, these safety measures may not be as effective as workers believe. 

Contact David Resnick & Associates, P.C. for Help with Your Claim

Despite safety measures in place, construction sites still pose considerable risks to workers. Safety measures do no good if workers are not properly trained on their use, they are defective, or they create a false sense of security.

If you were injured in a construction accident in New York, David Resnick & Associates, P.C. can help. We pride ourselves on the personal care and attention we provide to accident victims. Our zealous advocacy has helped us recover over $150 million for our deserving clients. Contact us today for a free case review and learn how we can help.

Author: David Resnick

Founder of David Resnick & Associates, P.C., a New York personal injury law firm in charge of providing exceptional and personal service to each of our clients in various areas including car accidents, slip and fall, wrongful death, construction accidents, and premises liability. David Resnick founded the firm in 1998 after working in large law firms where he saw a need for greater client communication and more personal care.

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