Workplace falls are all too common

Nov 11 2016

Familiarity breeds complacency. When the work environment is at height — whether on a ladder, a lift or a roof — familiarity can lead to accidents that never should have happened. Workplace accidents aren’t just about forgetting your surroundings, though. They’re caused by dangerous conditions, improper technique (possibly caused by improper training) and faulty equipment or set-up.

Prevention is a twofold approach that requires awareness and education, but also protective measures: literal safety nets.

Why are falls so common?

Falls have been a primary cause of construction deaths for a long time. Why? In its annual list of most common citations, OSHA says fall protection was the number one violation in 2015. Not all accidents are preventable, but most are. The right protections can prevent catastrophes entirely or they can make the consequences less severe.

In construction, time drives many decisions. The faster a job is completed, the better the pay will be for the company. Companies often push workers, many of whom are hourly, to finish a job quickly and move on to the next one. Setting up guardrails, scaffolding or safety nets can take extra time and it hurts the bottom line of the project.

Familiarity breeds complacency? What workers can do.

The famous “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photograph shows the dangers of familiarity. The picture, depicting builders of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, includes eleven men relaxing while suspended 850 feet above the street. As workers get more comfortable in a setting, sometimes safety efforts take a plunge.

It’s easy to adopt an “it can’t happen to me” attitude but, as the statistics show, it happens often. You may perform the same task 100 times perfectly, but it only takes one mistake before a life-altering fall. With repetition and increased skill, it’s easy to grow complacent and to try and save time and comfort by skipping the crucial step like setting up the scaffolding to specification or wearing a harness.

The biggest steps workers can take are to slow down, follow their training and pay attention to vital safety measures.

A safe workplace is the law

Safety certification is important, and most construction workers know the hazards and the how-to’s of the job. The truth is that construction companies often fail to provide or encourage the right safety equipment, even though it’s an entrenched law.

Employers must provide a safe work environment, whether that’s on a roof, a skyscraper or a parking lot. You go to work for a sense of accomplishment, pride and income — not to risk your life. The culture of violations needs to stop.

When injuries happen: Workers’ compensation

If you or a loved one falls while working on a construction job, you can and should seek workers’ compensation. This is true even if you made the decision not to take all safety precautions. Speak with a workers’ compensation lawyer about your options for recovering compensation to cover your lost income, medical bills and more.