Workplace falls from height are the leading cause of private sector worker death in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 39 percent of construction fatalities in 2016. They’re also among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports worker injuries and illnesses are down drastically from nearly 11 percent of workers in 1972 to nearly 3 percent of workers in 2016, there are still dangerous risks anyone working from a substantial height faces.
Workplace falls from height include incidents like the following:
- Falling off ladders
- Plummeting from scaffolding
- Being struck by an object from above, then losing balance and falling off another object
- Cascading off a roof or vehicle
- Falling into a hole in the floor or a wall
Any fall from 6 feet or more can cause serious injury, but even falls covering fewer distances can cause broken bones, cuts, head injuries and more. Here’s a look at what to be aware of concerning workplace falls from height, what to do if you experience this type of situation, and when negligence may be to blame for your fall.
Any time you’re working high off the ground, it’s vital to be aware of the risks you incur. One of the top preventable causes of workplace falls from height is a lack of training. If you ever feel uncomfortable with the amount of training you have before working from a significant height, voice your concerns to an employer. You should never be forced to do work you are uncomfortable with.
As you’re working above the ground, keep these other risk factors in mind:
Inadequate edge protection: If you are not properly secured to a harness that can protect you in a fall, and there is no edge protection, you could slip off the edge and plunge.
Poor securing of flooring or objects: If what you are walking on is not stable and secure, you might fall or slip off the flooring. Objects above you that are not properly secured and that may fall on your could also cause you to fall.
Vehicle movement: If you are scaling a vehicle, and the vehicle starts moving without warning, you could fall off it. A moving vehicle could also cause you to collide with another object and fall off.
Weather: A 2016 study of falls from height found weather conditions are one of the most common factors in falls. Inclement weather like windy or rainy conditions can exacerbate risk factors.
Protect yourself in situations where a fall is a risk factor by wearing slip-resistant shoes, helmet equipment and protective clothing. Always make sure any equipment you use has been tested first to ensure it’s in proper working condition.
What to Do If You Fall at Work
If you experience a fall at work, call for help, and don’t move because you may be injured. Get medical attention immediately. Try to take a mental note of what you were doing before the fall, what the conditions were like, and what happened immediately after.
You will want to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer. The insurance firm of your employer will handle compensation for medical bills and money lost from time missed off work.
Sometimes, the compensation you are offered is much lower than you deserve, or a workers’ compensation claim may be turned down. When an employer’s negligence is to blame, getting help from a workers’ compensation attorney may be wise. OSHA’s outline of fall protection states that employers must install fall protection at elevations at 4 feet or higher depending on the work environment. Employers should also guard holes, provide guardrails and toe-boards around elevated flooring, provide safety harnesses, and more depending on the work situation.
If you suspect adequate protection was not given to you while working, and you sustained a serious injury after a fall, contact an attorney. The statute of limitations prevents workers from filing a lawsuit after a certain amount of time, so it is best to get a free consultation as soon as possible from an attorney. Workers’ compensation claims don’t necessarily account for pain and suffering, or psychological damage incurred from a fall. An attorney can help you get the full compensation you deserve.
Need Help for a Serious Fall from Height Injury?
If you have experienced a serious injury from a fall, the team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums may be able to help. We specialize in workers’ compensation issues and offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation.