Fall protection remains the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s most frequently cited rules violation, even after federal regulators sought to reduce fall-related fatalities with updated workplace safety rules towards the end of 2016.
Fatal falls today account for more than 15% of worker deaths. In the construction industry, they account for a little more than 33% of worker deaths.
While fatal falls are the most worrisome result of a workplace rules violation, workplace injuries are also a cause for concern.
Workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational falls have been estimated at $70 billion annually in the United States. In addition to Workers’ Compensation insurance costs, there is the cost attributable to a project being short staffed. Recruiting and training new workers also adds costs. Witnessing an injury or death to a coworker can also affect morale and create lasting trauma for fellow workers.
Injury and death resulting from falls can often be prevented. When three government agencies led by OSHA joined forces to provide education and enforcement of fall prevention methods, they devised a three-step plan your company can use to develop a workplace fall prevention program:
Plan ahead to keep from looking back with regret: Prior to initiating any job at the worksite; determine what portions will require workers to operate from a height. This includes trees, ladders, scaffolds, roofs, platforms, cranes and other motorized vehicles. During this planning phase, determine what safety equipment and training will be needed to keep workers safe from harm.
Provide proper safety equipment to workers: Fall protection gear and equipment, such as ladders and scaffolds, are required if workers are situated six feet or more above a lower level. It is useful to note many injuries and even deaths occur from heights of only six feet.
Because different ladders and scaffolds are appropriate for different types of jobs, check to be sure you are providing the correct equipment. Make sure each worker has a harness if the job requires the use of personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). Carefully inspect all equipment prior to use.
Train workers to use safety equipment properly: Safety equipment won’t keep workers safe if isn’t properly used. It is that simple. Schedule training sessions during which workers can be taught the proper set up and use of any ladders, scaffolds, PFAS, or any other safety equipment they’ll be using on the job.
Trust a fall prevention expert: The cost of a workplace fall can affect your company in a variety of ways. By reaching out to a fall prevention expert who recognizes the danger signs and knows how to correct them, you can “catch” workplace falls before they occur.
Review your workplace falls risk profile and insurance coverage: No amount of planning, equipment and training can be reliably counted upon to prevent all falls at the workplace. Your trusted insurance broker can help you to choose the proper types and amount of coverage.
Brian Heun is the Sales and Relationship Manager and a Partner at KMRD Partners, Inc., a nationally recognized risk and human capital management consulting and insurance brokerage firm with offices throughout Pennsylvania. Brian can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org