Jobs that require working in spaces above ground level result in higher-than-average injuries related to falls. Moreover, these injuries aren’t limited to construction, forestry, and similar jobs that take workers many tens or even hundreds of feet in the air. Severe fall injuries can result from falls that are as short as six feet or less. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration devotes a significant amount of its resources to assist employers and employees in managing and reducing injuries and fatalities from falls.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace injuries in 2019 was 2.8 for every 100 workers – unchanged from 2018. Before 2018, the rate of workplace injuries had steadily declined for 15 years. Falls, slips, and trips account for 27 incidents (injuries and fatalities) for every 100,000 workers and 792 total fatalities in 2019. Falls remain a top three (3) cause of workplace injuries along with overexertion and contact with objects and equipment.
Heights: The Higher the Job, the Harder the Fall
Jobs that take workers above the ground level are more dangerous and result in more injuries and fatalities. The distance of the fall may worsen the damage. However, truck driving, warehouse work, and similar jobs that take workers a few feet into the air comprise substantial injuries. Many fall injuries and deaths are from a short-distance fall of under six feet. Accordingly, precautions are warranted even in jobs that don’t necessarily implicate heights – such as trucking.
Basic Safety Tips
Workers shouldn’t operate in high places if they are tired, intoxicated, impaired by drugs, or take medication that impairs their balance or judgment. This stands for warehouse and truckers who may not appreciate the risk of the short heights they could fall. To the extent possible, workers should not work without a harness that is secured to an anchor. Workers should also wear non-slip work boots that are up to code. When working in high environments, a worker shouldn’t use tools unless they are trained and familiar with using them.
As many tasks as possible should be performed on the ground. Work performed at various heights should be limited to work that is necessary and cannot be performed on the ground. Employers should also ensure that workers can quickly move from one area to another. Secured scaffolding or other instruments should be used to enable workers to move around their job easily.
Ladder safety, in particular, is poignant for truckers and warehouse employees. Workers on ladders shouldn’t reach for any objects that are not directly within reach. If a tool or object isn’t within easy reach, they should climb down and adjust the ladder as needed. Ladders should be secured to a stable surface. Workers who refuse to take safety seriously shouldn’t be allowed to operate in heights – even on a ladder. To the extent possible, workers shouldn’t use stepladders or regular ladders for strenuous tasks. The physically demanding task should be completed on the ground and then moved above ground as needed.
Employees should always speak up when they see a dangerous situation. Peer pressure in the workplace is a powerful disincentive. Employers and employees should work together to ensure that a safety culture prevails over any other peer pressure in the workplace. The best way to prevent injuries is to encourage everyone to contribute to a safer workplace.
Safety Harnesses: Life Savers
Safety harnesses are a system of devices that anchors workers onto an immovable object. Harnesses are complicated safety systems that should be up to code. All safety harnesses are comprised of the same functions or objects:
- Attached to a secured location
- A body harness that holds to the worker
- Webbing to catch the worker
- A lanyard or vertical lifeline and a horizontal lifeline
The lifelines secure the worker to the immovable object anchored to the worker by the harness. These systems are used to prevent workers from falling or slamming into a fall if they do. The system is also designed to absorb the force of the fall, so the workers’ body does not – it does this by allowing some “give” in the system, which disperses kinetic energy away from the worker. To uphold safety as a top priority, safety harnesses aren’t readily reusable after a fall. After a harness is used to prevent a fall, it should be inspected and replaced by an unused system until it is tested and verified for use again.
Harnesses are used in various jobs, including construction, warehouses, home repair (such as working on a roof), utility workers, and forestry. Safety harnesses are critical to protecting workers. Safety should not be compromised for a quick task and should always remain a top priority.