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Reducing fall hazards in the workplace

In many industries, nothing leads to more injuries and fatalities on the job than falls. They're incredibly dangerous, and workers and employees must know how to prevent them. While they often get the most press in construction and related industries, they can happen in any workplace.

For instance, experts note that some of the biggest fall hazards are:

  • Misused fall protection devices
  • Slippery floors and slick surfaces
  • Cluttered floors
  • Unsafely positioned ladders
  • Unstable walking and working surfaces
  • Unprotected edges
  • Wall openings
  • Holes in the floor, especially those that are not marked

These are just a few of the dangers, and they do vary from one job to the next, but you can see that some of them could factor in almost anywhere. There's a reason that workers face such serious risks.

Reducing those risks

So, how can employees lower the odds that they will suffer injuries in a fall? Nothing guarantees that an accident will never happen, but some important things to keep in mind are:

  • Getting proper on-the-job training
  • Using the right tools -- such as ladders -- for the job
  • Always using necessary fall protection equipment
  • Always using the handrail when ascending or descending the stairs
  • Cleaning up any spills as soon as they happen
  • Cleaning up clutter and obstacles in any location, but especially in doorways and walkways
  • Doing proper maintenance regarding lighting, such as changing out a bulb right away when it burns out
  • Closing doors and drawers
  • Using proper signage, such as "wet floor" signs
  • Wearing comfortable shoes that fit correctly and have good traction
  • Covering any electrical cords or other cables on the floor
  • Staying to the outside of a corner when walking
  • Never rushing and moving at a pace that is uncomfortable
  • Avoiding distractions, such as a cellphone

Essentially, workers just want to be conscious of the risk in advance. When they are, they can take a lot of small steps to increase safety in the workplace. Employers also need to monitor this, talking to employees about safety and showing them that it matters. When it becomes a priority, part of the overall company culture, that's when you avoid serious issues.

Of course, employers also must know what laws and regulations they need to follow. For instance, they may need to brush up on the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations regarding ladders, working at heights and fall protection. They should never cut corners.

Your options

If you do get injured in a fall on the job, you need to know what options you have. Remember that you may have a right to workers' compensation, which can then help to cover the costs after the accident.

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