OSHA ranks slips, trips and falls as the most common type of incident impacting employees on the job today. In fact, deaths caused by falls are second only to automobile accidents in the workplace. They are also the leading cause of work-related deaths in the construction industry.
The use of ladders adds an even greater risk. In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 300 deaths per year caused by falls from ladders, most often from heights of 10 feet or less.
How can businesses manage this risk and protect their most important asset, employees, from workplaces falls?
A strong Fall Protection Program is the first step.
Fall Protection Program
In a Fall Protection Program, businesses determine the known and common cause of falls in their workplace; evaluate the probability and severity of the risk; and develop best practices to prevent losses.
Managers, in conjunction with their workplace safety leader, have an important role in developing their organizations’ program. Their responsibilities include:
- Creating and enforcing a written safety program
- Holding all employees accountable for their actions
- Providing training at regular intervals particularly during periods of higher exposure
- Providing compliance incentives to reward safe behavior
When determining what causes falls, the most common reasons are categorized as unsafe conditions, unsafe behavior, the use of improper or damaged equipment and the environment.
Unsafe conditions may include:
- Wet/oily surfaces
- Loose gravel
- Loose or torn rugs
- Transitional surfaces (i.e. tile to carpet)
Unsafe behavior may include:
- Failing to look while walking
- Failing to use designated walkways
- Being in a hurry
- Distractions such as cell phones
- Excessive noise/poor lighting
Carrying or moving objects which limit your field of view or effect your balance and using the wrong equipment for the job may also cause a fall.
Finally, environmental factors such as snow, ice or rain can be a major contributory factor to a fall.
Once a business is aware of the hazards of falls, a variety of protection measures can be implemented depending on the type of industry or work. These include:
- Guardrails/toe boards
- Personal fall protection devices (harness)
- Safety nets
- Stair/hand rails
- Rope decent systems
- Ladder cages
- Warning lines
- Have a dedicated safety monitor
With a proper Fall Protection Program in place, companies empower all employees to report unsafe conditions and must act quickly to correct them. Discontinuing the use of damaged equipment and investigating all incidents for the root cause will also lead to the improvement of your safety culture. As businesses learn from incidents, policies and procedures must be updated and revised employee training provided.
By far, the most important way to protect employees from workplace falls is to remind them to always be aware of their surroundings. Every employee is responsible for his or her own safety and the safety of those around them.
Take a safe step forward by being aware of how to protect your employees from workplace falls.
Founded in 1925, CopperPoint Insurance Companies is a leading provider of workers’ compensation and commercial insurance solutions operating in six southwestern states. To learn more about our insurance products and find resources to better manage your risks, explore our website or contact your independent insurance agent.