Of all the potential mishaps that occur in the typical workday, falls may be the most universal. We've all missed a step, misgauged our footing or lost our balance. But on the worksite, this hazard takes on a new dimension as, rather than simple embarrassment and minor soreness, employees risk serious injury – and product manufacturers and employers could face crucial liability.
While falls are a leading cause of injury in the workplace, they’re preventable, regardless of industry. That’s the reason for spreading safety information in events like Falls Prevention Awareness Week (held this week) and OSHA’s fall prevention campaigns. Read on to learn more about the seriousness of falls and effective methods to reduce risk in the workplace.
There’s no question about the need for increased fall prevention measures. In 2019, fall protection took the number one spot on OSHA’s annual list of top 10 safety violations. And, consider these concerning statistics from the National Council on Aging, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention and the National Safety Council (NSC):
- In 2015, the total cost of fatal injuries from falls was $50 billion.
- Overall, deadly falls have risen sharply in recent years, with 34,673 people dying in fall-related accidents at home and at work in 2016.
- In 2018:
- 791 workers died in falls (falls to a lower level and falls on the same level).
- 240,000 people were injured badly enough to require days off of work.
- The most common industry impacted by falls was transportation and materials moving, resulting in 45,730 injuries and 82 fatalities.
- Manufacturing saw the second highest number of falls, totaling 17,160 injuries and 39 deaths.
When you think of falls resulting in serious injury, you probably imagine they most commonly occur when falling from high places. You may be surprised to learn that of all the fatal slips, trips and falls that transpired in 2014, roughly half of them were from heights 20 feet or lower – with 12 percent just six feet off the ground.
Aside from the frequency with which falls take place, here's another truism: slips and falls are nearly 100 percent preventable. And this is especially true on the job. Whether working from a ladder, scaffolding or high atop a skyscraper, it’s critical to plan ahead, assess the risk of falling and use the proper equipment.
Here are a few recommendations from the experts at the NSC and OSHA that can lead to successful fall prevention in the workplace: OSHA can sum up fall prevention in three letters: "PPT." These stand for Plan, Provide and Train.
- For the first P, it's critical for employers to plan out scenarios wherein their workers may slip, trip or fall. For instance, if you're in construction, workers may lose their balance on ladders or stumble over equipment. You can lower the chances by instituting the preparations that make these hazards apparent or less risky, such as through signage or with fall arrest systems.
- Injury avoidance requires accessibility, so be sure to provide all the appropriate gear to get their jobs done without undue risk, such as with scaffolding or harnesses on construction sites.
- Last but not least, train. OSHA provides lots of different training materials that can ensure all your workers understand how equipment works and what red flags they should be aware of that may lead to a fall-related injury.
Your Slip, Trip
and Fall Prevention Checklist
As alluded to earlier, falls aren't exclusively linked to ladders or high perches. Here are a few other tips that can keep your workers and products safe:
- Make full use of signs and labels, both on equipment (like messages related to machines that should not be used as steps) and throughout the workplace (indicating when surfaces are slippery or have been cleaned).
- Try to implement a safety-based culture at your workplace so staff and crew know that "safety first" is more than just a slogan.
- Ensure carpeting is slip resistant. Use slip resistant shoes.
- Encourage workers to always use handrails when ascending or descending staircases.
- Ensure that your workplace is fully OSHA compliant. For instance, guardrails and toe-boards are required by law if there's any chance a worker could fall.
- Keep equipment fully operational and fix repairs that can lead to slip and fall accidents immediately. Ensure that workers are properly trained on how to use the equipment.
A fall can end in death or disability in an instant. In 2016 alone, roughly 9.2 million people were treated in the emergency room for fall-related injuries. With simple precautions, like training and fall prevention programs, the number of these accidents can be substantially reduced.
Reducing Falls in the Workplace with Effective
It’s clear that falls continue to be a prevalent source of injury in the workplace. In addition to implementing a safety-based culture and ensuring OSHA compliance, warning people of fall-related hazards when and where they could occur is crucial to reducing these risks. Whether standard or custom designed, Clarion Safety has the compliant warning labels and signs that help support fall prevention. Connect with our experts to learn more about reducing slips, trips and falls in your workplace with effective visual safety communication.
This blog was originally posted on 9/25/18 and has been updated with additional information throughout.