As the saying goes, “Accidents will happen” — and the reality is that construction falls happen more than any other accident. It’s tragic that, year after year, workplace falls are near the top OSHA’s most reported injuries.
The same federal rules apply to everyone: An employer has to make a workplace as safe as possible, and nobody should come home at the end of the day with an injury or end up in the hospital. Yet, in a recently published list, failure to supply fall protection is the number one violation OSHA found in their inspections over the past year.
Falls can be avoided
It’s true that construction workers are exposed to job-related heights more often than workers in most professions. Scaffolds, ladders and cranes are part of daily work for many, and with familiarity comes a mistaken sense of comfort that can cause accidents. Sometimes, in pushing to get the job done, appropriate safety precautions are not taken.
The fact of the matter is that most falls are preventable. More attention to setting up a workspace can mean better security measures and taking more time to specifically address the “what if” scenario of a fall might save a life later on.
Falls, slips and trips
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 359 of the 899 construction fatalities in 2014 are withinh a single category of injury: falls, slips and trips. Since this category presents such a prominent cause of serious work injuries, there are steps your workplace should be taking to make sure your risk of injury is minimal.
OSHA states that employers must:
- Guard holes where a worker might fall
- Use railing, toe-boards or covers along platforms or near holes
- Outfit dangerous equipment with a guard rail to protect falls onto machinery
- Use safety harnesses, nets, stair railings and hand rails in select circumstances or professions
Moreover, there are basic rules that employers need to follow to keep workers safe before you’re even at the worksite. In all industries, construction or other, OSHA regulations require:
- Working conditions free of known dangers (such as an elevated worksite without a guard rail or a hole without a cover)
- Keeping floors and work areas free of debris and tripping hazards
- Providing protective gear specific to your trade, such as helmets, masks, pads, etc.
- Training all workers about job hazards
Your workplace rights
These aren’t mere suggestions. They are requirements that any employer must follow, despite OSHA’s frequent citations for companies not following through.
In any workplace injury, you will have the right to a workers’ compensation claim, but a qualified attorney can help examine your case to see if enough was done to prevent the fall or injury in the first place. Workers’ compensation covers medical expenses and healing time away from work. A qualified attorney can determine if you can assert a third-party claim, which may permit you to recover substantial damages for pain and suffering, in addition to any workers’ compensation benefits.
Injuries pull you away from the job, damaging your pride and your ability to earn a living as much as they hurt your body. Make sure you’re standing up for your rights and doing what you can to stay on the job, healthy and fall-free.