Far and away the most prevalent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's four most dangerous workplace hazards are falls. Not only are falls more common than any other workplace safety threat, they are also responsible for more fatal accidents: Nearly 40 percent of deaths in the construction industry in 2014 were the result of falls, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It isn't just the construction industry, either – though fatal falls from height are more likely to occur there than in an office or on a manufacturing floor. However, tripping hazards can still undermine employee safety, create downtime and bring about OSHA fines. It's in every company's best interest to protect workers from falls and doing so requires a commitment to accident prevention.
Create the conditions for safety
First and foremost, employers must either remove the things that cause falls or, if that's not possible, provide measures and equipment to mitigate accidents. That means taping down wires that cross walkways, removing chairs or boxes from areas employees pass through, mopping up slippery messes or otherwise blocking off those tripping hazards. When working at height, employers have to provide the necessary PPE that can catch workers if they do happen to slip – harnesses and railings.
Fall hazard signs also play a crucial role in fall prevention. In some cases, tripping hazards cannot be avoided – especially in construction and manufacturing. However, employees who are made well aware of those dangers by clear and visible signs can avoid becoming victims. In fact, not only are safety signs an excellent fall prevention, they are often an OSHA requirement. As a result, organizations don't just stand to protect workers, they will also avoid the penalties and fines that come with non-compliance.
The workers themselves can also be their own worst enemy if they don't follow the right protocol for fall protection. But it's also on employers to provide the necessary materials and regular training to keep workers informed. It isn't enough to hand out a flyer on fall safety – it has to be a planned, coordinated, continual effort.
For example, workers must be aware of the requirements for helmets, harnesses and other PPE. They should also be instructed to obey the fall safety signs posted throughout the facility. In other words, the entire organization, management and workers included, must be dedicated to fall prevention. If that happens, many of the 349 fall-related construction deaths that occurred in 2014 could be avoided in the future.