In 1933 the construction for the Golden Gate Bridge began as the first suspension bridge that would be supported a tower in the ocean that would be surrounded by harsh water and weather.
This project was a significant moment in history not only for fall protection but for how people treat safety. While this was not the first major project to feature fall prevention, it was the first to require workers to use all of the provided safety equipment as a condition of employment. When the project was being planned there was a common “rule” that a project would expect to suffer one fatality for every million dollars spent. The projects was slated to cost $35 million.
Chief engineer Joesph Strauss was instrumental in the implementation of these safety rules. While there were 11 workers killed during the project, 10 of which was the result of a section of scaffold falling through the safety netting, while 28 workers died in the construction of the nearby San Francisco Bay bridge that was being built at the same time. Known as the “Halfway to Hell Club”, nineteen men accidentally fell into the netting below the bridge during construction and lived.
Following the Golden Gate Bridge, the National Safety Council found from 1933-1997 worker deaths had declined from 14,500 to 5,100 per year while the work force had exploded from 39 million to about 130 million in the U.S.
Today workers use a combination of fall restraint, fall arrest and other forms of engineered and administrative controls to protect them from the hazards of working at heights. Life Support Ltd offers fall protection courses to help keep todays workers safe, just like the “Halfway to Hell Club” of the Golden Gate Bridge.