Slips, trips and falls are a top cause of workplace injury year after year. Within this category, falls from heights are by far the most severe; the cost per claim is more than three times that of falls on the same level and other slips and trips.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that fatal falls have reached a 26-year high. Here’s what you need to know about the severity of falls from heights and how to prevent them in your workplace.
A Life-Changing Injury
Late last year, Missouri Employers Mutual received a claim involving a construction worker who stepped off the edge of a roof while installing sheet decking. He tumbled nearly 20 feet to the concrete below. The worker suffered very serious injuries that included eight fractured ribs, vertebral fractures, pelvic fracture and a closed head injury. He was taken by ambulance to a regional medical center where he was placed in the ICU. Because of the injury, he will suffer a significant disability.
The estimated cost of this claim is more than $558,000. It caused the policyholder’s e-mod to jump from below 1.0 to 1.57, and could result in a premium increase of up to 67 percent. In this case, the policyholder had a fall protection policy in place requiring employees to wear safety harnesses and tie off when working at elevations. However, the worker who fell was not wearing a safety harness or tied off. This shows a breakdown in enforcement of the existing policy. The injury occurred on a Sunday, so the worker may have been working without supervision.
Avoid Falls from Heights
It only takes one mistake in hundreds of jobs to change someone’s life forever and significantly impact your work comp premium costs. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure your employees are taking precautions every single time. Here are some top-priority tips to avoid falls:
Have a written fall protection policy
The first step is to document when and how employees are required to use fall protection equipment. Be detailed and thorough; include expectations for uncommon situations as well as day-to-day operations.
Communicate and enforce the policy
If your policies and training materials are collecting dust on a shelf, they aren’t doing anything to help you keep your employees safe. You must communicate the policy often. Make sure every employee has read the policy, understood it and signed off. Don’t forget to include policies in your new employee orientation.
Provide hands-on training
From tying off to climbing a ladder, showing employees how to properly use equipment can go a long way in preventing falls. For example, have your employees try on harnesses, show them how to check for fit and how to properly attach them. Illustrate what it looks like to maintain three points of contact when using a ladder. You should also regularly inspect equipment and replace damaged gear immediately.
Make using protective equipment easy
One MEM policyholder purchased new equipment with a safety grant, only to discover that the equipment’s out-of-the-way location was a barrier to regular use. If they hadn’t taken the time to investigate, the equipment’s efficacy would have continued to fail expectations.
Learn more about how to make sure your documentation is effectively protecting you and your employees in this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast.
And check out some of these free resources to prevent falls in your workplace: