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Detailing the duty to protect employees from falls

For relatively healthy, able-bodied people in San Antonio, workplace falls may not seem to present that much of a risk. They may think that only very young children or the elderly can be subject to harm from a fall. Their confidence likely comes from not only believing that they are firmly in control of their motor skills, but also that they understand their working environments. Such people might be surprised to learn how big of a problem falls present to the American workforce. 

The professional safety journal EHS Today shows that both employers and employees alike should be concerned over the risks they face from falls. Its information shows that approximately $70 billion is spent annually to cover medical costs and workers' compensation claims related to falls. It also shows falls to be the second-highest cause of employment-related deaths behind transportation accidents. These numbers include ground-level falls, falls from height and accidents caused by falling objects. 

Companies whose workers routinely face the potential for falls are required to adhere to safety guidelines set forth in Section 1926.501 of the regulatory standards determined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These standards address all manner of fall hazards, including: 

  • Leading edges
  • Hoist areas
  • Holes
  • Excavations
  • Roofing
  • Permanent or semi-permanent structures

The established standard is that employees working on or near any of these or other surfaces that stand more than six feet off the ground must be provided with fall protection. The rule also requires employers to provide head protection to those at risk from falling objects.

While the aforementioned standards apply to falls from height, employers are also obligated to protect employees from ground-level falls. This includes cleaning up spills that could cause slippery surfaces or replacing flooring if it becomes a tripping hazard. 

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