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Why falls continue to be a problem in the workplace

In California and around the country, falls are a persistent hazard in workplace settings. A serious fall can occur even when a worker is just walking through the building or trying to change a light bulb. According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 605 workers were killed and approximately 212,000 more were injured as a result of falls in 2009.

The research indicates that most fatalities due to falls occurred in the construction industry. However, the health services, wholesale and retail industries saw the highest number of non-fatal fall injuries. In most cases, the falls were associated with wet floors, cluttered or unstable walking areas, unprotected edges, wall openings and floor holes.

It is estimated that treating injuries from falls results in medical expenses of roughly $70 billion annually. Professionals recommend implementing better fall prevention and protection technologies to make workers safer and help prevent these accidents. Currently, there are federal regulations and industry standards in place to create safer work environments, but these measures are not always followed. Companies continue to follow unsafe practices, and there is a poor safety culture i some companies that contributes to the overall problem.

Workers who are in unsafe environments do have some recourse open to them. They can work with their unions, professional associations, and employers ahead of time to remove clutter, correct safety problems, install better handrails and create a safer working environment. When a worker does suffer an injury as the result of a fall, workers' compensation may be available. Benefits can include the costs of treatment and other medical care as well as a replacement of a percentage of wages that the injured victim lost as a result of an inability to work.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Fall Injuries Prevention in the Workplace", accessed on Jan. 19, 2015

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