Slip and fall accidents in the workplace injure more than 200,000 workers per year in the United States. Employers in Nevada have a duty of care to their employees to prevent these accidents from taking place. When employers fail to provide proper training, safety equipment, and supervision, they negligently place their employees at risk of serious injury or death.
Falling Down on the Job
Lax oversight and failure to ensure safe working conditions create a dangerous work environment, particularly for workers whose jobs put them at risk for falling from heights. While all falls can cause serious injuries, those that involve distances greater than a few feet can easily result in paralysis or death.
While all workers are at risk of injury or death in a fall, the risk varies significantly across industries. Construction workers are at greatest risk with more than 310 fatal falls, and 10,350 serious falls recorded each year. Of fatal falls from scaffolds in the US, 86% occur in construction. The industry is also accountable for 81% of fatal falls from roofs, and 57% of deadly falls from ladders. Other workers who are at increased risk of falls from height include linemen, electricians, manufacturing personnel, those who work in transportation and warehousing.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Approximately 30% of all injury deaths involve a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Of those who suffer a TBI at work, 47% occur during a fall. This is far higher than the 14% caused by motor vehicle accidents, and 15% caused when workers are struck by an object or pinned against an object.
A few feet is all it takes to cause a TBI. Most fall protection standards don’t cover distances of less than 4 feet for workers in general industry, 6 feet for construction workers, and 10 feet for anyone who works on scaffolding. This leaves a considerable gap in protection that exposes workers to the very real risk of striking their head at distances just under the prescribed regulatory coverage.
OSHA Updates Safety Standards
Falls are a leading cause of days away from work. To counter the rising rates of fall-related injuries in the workplace, OSHA has updated requirements for the use of ladders, the installation of fall arrest systems, guardrails, etc. These updates reflect the commitment of regulators eager to enhance fall protection for workers in the United States.
The updated rules require testing systems for proper performance as well as inspecting systems for deficiencies and damage. They also address training employees how to use the safety systems and require employers to properly maintain these systems.
The updated rules give employers flexibility in choosing which safety systems are most appropriate for their worksite conditions. These include guardrail systems, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, positioning systems, travel restraint systems, and ladder safety systems.
However, these updates call for gradual implementation which means that it will be some time before they provide any real protection for workers. On full implementation, it is estimated that the new rules will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries per year.
Preventing Falls in the Workplace
Employers have a duty of care to ensure that their workplace is safe. This means implementing fall protection programs that include training employees how to navigate the worksite and report hazards. It also involves providing proper protective equipment including helmets and safety harnesses, and training employees how to utilize these safety devices. Often, workers who suffer serious injuries in a fall at work suffer injuries that would have been preventable by adhering to these simple measures.
Employers are also responsible for monitoring and correcting deficiencies on the worksite. This includes making sure that fall arrest systems are properly installed, making sure supervisors promptly address and eliminate fall risks, and ordering a halt to work when weather conditions or lighting make navigating the worksite hazardous. Of particular importance is the removal of construction debris and tools from scaffolds where workers can easily trip over them as they walk past.
Blowing the Whistle on Unsafe Practices
In many cases, workers who are injured in a slip and fall accident work for employers that have a well-documented history of safety violations that put the health and safety of their workers at risk. Whistleblower protections in Nevada provide a reliable shield workers can use to defend themselves when reporting workplace hazards or accidents. Under these protections, workers can file complaints regarding unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation or termination from their employer. Workers’ comp lawyers of Nevada can help workers file these complaints and pursue claims for damages suffered in slips and falls in the workplace.