3 steps to stop workplace falls
Statistically, falls lead to a high percentage of injuries and deaths in U.S. workplaces, especially in industries like construction, maintenance and roofing. Workers who fall from varying heights can suffer serious and life-threatening injuries. For individuals who routinely work atop ladders, roofs or scaffolding, it’s important to understand how to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood of being involved in a work-related fall accident.
1. Guardrails and barricades
The use of barrier systems is an effective way to prevent workplace falls. A system could be as simple as ensuring a door is locked to more complex systems that include guardrails and toe-boards. These barriers work by preventing workers access to hazards.
2. Harnesses and lines
A harness and line system is an example of safety equipment that may be used in addition to guardrails to prevent workers from suffering falls from heights. Safety harnesses can be particularly effective in cases where guardrails cannot be used, such as during a residential roofing job. If a worker does go over a roof’s edge, the harness catches before they strike the ground.
It is important to note that a harness may only limit injuries, not prevent them entirely. If a worker falls from a roof on a rope, for example, the worker may still strike the edge of the roof on the way over or strike the building when the rope catches. The goal of a fall arrest system is to keep an accident from turning fatal.
3. Training and education
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that companies need to offer safety training for workers in a “language they can understand.” In some cases, this may mean addressing workers in their native language, if they're not fluent in English. In other cases, it just means breaking down technical jargon and teaching workers how to use fall protection systems in layman's terms.
The goal should always be to make sure that workers have a complete understanding of what it takes to work safely, how to use fall protection equipment and how to avoid known hazards. All of the equipment in the world may not help without proper training, education and a company culture that values safety.
What should you do if you suffer a fall-related injury on the job? It’s important to understand your legal rights and obtain help to secure the compensation you need and deserve.