Preventing falls in the workplace in three steps

Falls are the cause of many worker deaths in Connecticut, as elsewhere in the U.S., and falling is a factor in 33% of all construction worker deaths in particular. Work-related falls cost the nation about $7 billion every year in workers' compensation claims and medical treatments, yet fall protection violations are the most widespread of all OSHA violations.

To help employers prevent fall injuries and death, OSHA and three other agencies have created a simple three-step guide. The steps are to plan ahead, provide the right safety equipment and train workers on the use of that equipment.

In the first step, employers must foresee when a job will require employees to work at a height or 6 feet or more above the ground. Six feet may not sound so high, but injuries and even deaths can occur at that height. Elevated surfaces include roofs and platforms, scaffolding, trees and motorized vehicles like cranes.

Safety equipment can include scaffolding, ladders and personal fall arrest systems, such as harnesses. Workers must wear these harnesses. They must also use the right ladder or scaffolding for the job at hand. Training should cover how to set up and use these items and other equipment. Before anything, employers may want to hire a fall prevention expert to detect and address all safety hazards.

These steps cannot guarantee an injury-free job site, of course, but this is why employers pay for workers' compensation insurance. Those who are injured, regardless of who was at fault, may file for workers' comp benefits to be reimbursed for medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. If the fall disabled them, they may be compensated for short- or long-term disability leave. Filing for benefits can be complicated, so it may be wise to retain a lawyer.

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