Is slipping, tripping, and/or falling on the job a serious problem? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2009, employment related falls accounted for 212,760 injuries including 605 deaths. So, yes, falls are a serious problem.
At a Workers Compensation and medical cost of $70 billion annually, the financial impact is a concern to business people across the United States. Falls can occur anywhere:
- Slips on spills in a restaurant kitchen
- Steelworkers on skyscrapers
- Tripping over an area rug in a conference room
- Changing a light bulb on a step ladder
- Carrying a load so vision is blocked
- Poorly maintained staircases
- Icy or heaved sidewalks and parking lots
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researches causation and risk avoidance. Common sense goes a long way toward avoiding dangerous conditions, but more subtle hazards can be avoided through education and training.
Insurance carriers and their loss control professionals distribute much of this information simply by asking. One area of study concerns falls from elevated working platforms. For example, roofers shingling a house need to wear a harness and to tie off to a stable anchor. If footing is compromised, the leash will prevent a worse fall. Pole climbers and bucket truck operations require the same safety measure.
NIOSH researches the elevated platform fall in a virtual reality laboratory. Trades people go through their routines in virtual reality so scientists can observe the human behaviors leading to a fall. When causation is confirmed, safety measures are revisited and improved. The study may determine a front or back connection for the harness to create ease of work or better balance conditions.
Human factors laboratory studies ergonomics and other human stress factors. Posture, temperature, even industrial psychology is examined for potential safety improvement.
NIOSH studies ladder technology to better stabilize, operate, and climb safely. But, construction and utility work are not the only industries where falls are an issue. In 2008, falls were the third leading cause of death in manufacturing.
The movie image of prat-falling stuntmen is iconic. These professionals take precautions to safely perform their tricks. Workplace safety, especially avoiding slips, trips, and fall hazards, however, is serious business.
The next time you walk through your business, look for potential slip, trip, and fall hazards. Are the floors dry? Is the floor space too crowded? Are hallways kept clear of storage boxes? Is the carpet laid correctly and stretched to the walls? Is it safe to walk around your jobsite or business premise?
And do ask our insurance loss representatives for ideas, or educational and training tools.