It may come as a surprise that the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death is falls. In 2015, nearly 33,381 people died in falls at home and at work – and for working adults, depending on the industry, falls can be the leading cause of death.
In 2014, 660 workers died in falls from a higher level, and 49,210 were injured badly enough to require days off of work. A worker doesn’t have fall from a high level to suffer fatal injuries. While half of all fatal falls in 2014 occurred from 20 feet or lower, 12% were from less than 6 feet, according to Injury Facts 2017®.
Construction workers are most at risk for fatal falls from height – more than seven times the rate of other industries – but falls can happen anywhere, even at a “desk job.”
NSC data for 2014 includes falls from height and falls on the same level, by industry:
Whether working from a ladder, roof or scaffolding, it’s important to plan ahead, assess the risk and use the right equipment. First, determine if working from a height is absolutely necessary or if there is another way to do the task safely.
Discuss the task with coworkers and determine what safety equipment is needed
Make sure you are properly trained on how to use the equipment
Scan the work area for potential hazards before starting the job
Make sure you have level ground to set up the equipment
If working outside, check the weather forecast; never work in inclement weather
Use the correct tool for the job, and use it as intended
Ensure stepladders have a locking device to hold the front and back open
Always keep two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand on the ladder
Place the ladder on a solid surface and never lean it against an unstable surface
A straight or extension ladder should be 1 foot away from the surface it rests on for every 4 feet of height and extend at least 3 feet over the top edge
Securely fasten straight and extension ladders to an upper support
Wear slip-resistant shoes and don’t stand higher than the third rung from the top
Don’t lean or reach while on a ladder, and have someone support the bottom
Never use old or damaged equipment; check thoroughly before use
Millions of people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries every year. A fall can end in death or disability in a split second, but with a few simple precautions, you’ll be sure stay safe at at work.
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