Each year, thousands of people are injured in falls at work. Falls at work can be deadly and often result in serious injuries that can keep someone off the job for an extended period. Many of these injuries could be prevented by taking some simple safety precautions.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2019, more than 800 workers died in falls at work, and more than 240,000 were injured badly enough to require days off from work. While construction workers are at most risk for fatal falls, falls can happen anywhere. (National Safety Council)
We will discuss the dangers of falls at work and the steps that you can take to prevent them.
One of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries is falling from portable ladders. If you need to use a ladder at your workplace, there are some essential safety precautions that you should follow.
Always inspect the ladder and read the labels and markings on the ladder before use to ensure that it is in good condition and can support your weight safely. If the ladder is damaged, it should be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.
Ensure that there’s nothing above the ladder or below that could cause falls at work (e.g., electrical wires). Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the steps, rungs, or feet.
Ladders must always be placed on a stable and level surface. They must never be placed on boxes, barrels, or unstable surfaces to obtain additional height. Before using an extension ladder, ensure that all the locks on it are correctly engaged.
Make sure that you have a firm grip on the ladder and use both hands to climb. Keep your body near the middle and always face the ladder while climbing.
Use caution when moving ladders. Avoid standing on the top step of ladders or using the ladder as a scaffold. Never walk or stand too close to the edge of the ladder. Never carry anything while climbing or descending the ladder. If you feel unstable while climbing; stop immediately and do not continue until you feel safe.
Falls at work can be deadly, so it is vital to take every precaution possible to stay safe. In addition to following these safety precautions, it is also essential to wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with ladders. This includes a hard hat, eye protection, gloves, and sturdy shoes.
Types of Falls at Work and How to Prevent Them
Any type of fall is potentially dangerous but falls from ladders are hazardous. Other types of falls at work include tripping over objects or slipping on wet floors. Some circumstances that are associated with falls at the workplace include unprotected edges, slippery, cluttered, or unstable walking surfaces, and floor holes and wall openings. (CDC, 2021)
Unfortunately, many employees fail to follow basic safety rules that could help prevent these accidents from happening in the first place. By following some simple steps, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding serious injury if there’s ever an accident. Here are some ways to prevent falls at work.
Always keep walkways clean and clear of clutter. If there is a spill, warning signs must be placed around the hazard, and the spill must be cleaned immediately. This minimizes the chances of an employee tripping over a random object and reduces the potential of a severe injury.
Proper lighting inside and outside of the workplace is essential. Stairways must be well-lit and free from any unsecured objects. Inside the workplace, try to run power, internet, and phone cords behind the walls or under the carpet so they’re hidden.
If there are any cracks or holes in the building flooring or outside pavement, warning signs must be placed around that area. Clear and well-placed signage helps to highlight problems areas. Signs that indicate a step, a gap, or uneven ground can call attention and increase awareness. Any problem areas must be repaired immediately.
Falls can be preventable with some simple safety precautions. Surveying the work environment is critical to avoid falls and their potential risks at work. The best way to keep employees and customers safe is by paying attention to hazards at work and taking proactive steps to tackle them.
National Safety Council. “Make Fall Safety a Top Priority.” National Safety Council, www.nsc.org/work-safety/safety-topics/slips-trips-falls.
CDC. “Falls in the Workplace.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Sept. 2021, www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/falls/default.html.