National Fall Prevention Day was started by the National Council on Aging ten years ago as a way to educate older Americans and their family members about the risks of falling as we age.
We also think this day is a good time to take a look at the risk of workplace falls. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), falls from heights are the second leading cause of workplace death after motor vehicle accidents. Each year, approximately 45,000 people are injured and nearly 600 people are killed in workplace “falls to a lower level.”
These tragic accidents can often be prevented when workers are aware of the risks and employers make an effort to create a safe work environment.
We offer some common-sense advice on preventing falls at work in honor of National Fall Prevention Day 2017.
Falls Happen in Every Industry
You might think of workplaces such as construction sites or loading docks as having a high risk of fall injuries—and they do. However, you can slip, trip, or fall in any workplace, including an office suite or school.
Reasons falls happen at work include the following:
- Slippery, cluttered, or unstable surfaces
- Unprotected edges
- Floor holes and wall openings
- Unsafely positioned ladders
- Misused fall protection
Often, falls happen because workers are rushed, distracted, or simply careless, but when a work area is free of slip and trip hazards, this is much less likely to happen. According to the NSC, steps an employer can take to reduce the risks of trips and falls include the following:
- Clean up spills immediately or place “wet floor” warning signs for workers.
- Keeps walkways and hallways free of debris, clutter, and obstacles.
- Keep filing cabinets and desk drawers shut when not in use.
- Cover cables or cords in walkways.
- Replace burnt-out light bulbs promptly.
- Consider installing abrasive floor mats or replacing worn flooring.
- Encourage workers to wear comfortable, properly-fitted shoes.
Safety at work depends on both employers and employees. If you see a fall hazard in your workplace, report it to a supervisor. Be aware of your surroundings and any obstacles in your path as you work.
If employees are under time pressure and feel the need to rush around, employers should take look at deadlines and schedules to see if adjustments can be made to allow workers more time to complete their tasks without unnecessary risks.
Common Fall Injuries
Common serious injuries that result from workplace falls include:
- Traumatic brain injury. An impact to the head after a fall from a height could cause a concussion or more serious brain injury.
- Hip fractures. Especially for older workers, a hip fracture can occur after a fall from a height or a simple slip and fall.
- Broken arms and legs. A fall from a height can easily cause a broken limb, as can landing in an awkward position from a slip and fall.
- Shoulder injuries. It's natural to try to break a fall with an outstretched hand, but this can lead to a serious shoulder injury.
- Back and spinal cord injuries. Landing on your back when you fall from an upper level can easily cause a spinal fracture or low-back injury.
- Sprains and strains. These soft tissue injuries can happen to an ankle or wrist in even a minor fall. They can be hard to treat and hard to prove to an insurance adjuster.
How Workers’ Comp May Apply
If you fall at work and suffer an injury that keeps you off the job, it doesn’t matter what the cause of the fall was. If the injury requires medical treatment and time away from work, you are entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover your lost wages and to pay your medical bills.
It's important to report your fall immediately and that to see the doctor designated by your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company, if instructed to do so. If your employer disputes that the fall happened at work, you may need to gather witness statements and surveillance video to prove your claim.
You'll also need an experienced worker’s comp attorney to argue for you. If an unsafe workplace led to your injury, make sure you get the compensation you are entitled to. Contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free case review.