If you work in the construction industry, the answer to this question might seem obvious. You more than likely do not need the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to tell you that the number one danger you face is falling. However, that does not mean that you or your employer should ignore the agency's efforts to keep you safe from falls.
Many of the deaths involving construction workers that occur each year result from falls. OSHA believes these deaths fall into the "preventable" category. As a result, OSHA created its "Fall Prevention Campaign" to get the word out regarding simple steps to help prevent you from falling on the job with its partners, the National Occupational Research Agenda and the National Institute for Occupational Safety.
What does the campaign recommend for fall safety?
OSHA divides its recommendations into three parts:
- Planning: Review the requirements of each job with an eye toward safety. This remains the first step in reducing or eliminating the potential hazards that lead to falls. While figuring out how to accomplish a task, include the safety measures required to complete the job. In fact, employers should include the costs of safety equipment in their cost estimations.
- Equipment: Before beginning the work, your employer should make the appropriate safety equipment for the particular job available, and you should use it. Make sure that your employer provides the right scaffolds and ladders for the job. Safety gear such as personal fall arrest systems increases your safety. Each worker should wear a harness that fits and remains tied off to an anchor the entire time you work at a height. You and your employer should inspect all safety gear prior to its use to make sure that it will function properly in the event of an accident.
- Training: OSHA requires employers to ensure that each worker receives training regarding identifying potential hazards and the use of safety equipment. Regardless of your time in the construction industry and your experience, everyone could use a refresher periodically. Your confidence in your abilities makes you effective and efficient at your job, but it also causes complacency, which could lead to a fall.
Following these steps could save your life. Do not hesitate to say something to your supervisor and employer if they fail to follow these steps.
What if my employer and I follow these steps, but I still fall and suffer injuries?
Accidents could still happen, even if you and your employer follow the property safety protocols. For this reason, Massachusetts law requires your employer to carry workers' compensation insurance. If you suffer work-related injuries, this insurance covers your medical bills, lost wages and other financial losses, depending on the severity of your injuries.
How do I obtain these benefits?
The process of obtaining workers' compensation benefits often results in frustration for injured workers. While you should focus on your recovery, your employer and the insurance company often insist that you jump through hoops in order to obtain benefits. In some cases, you receive a denial of much-needed benefits, which only increases your frustration and stress since you must still pay your bills and provide for your family despite your injuries.
In either case, you might benefit from discussing your situation with an attorney who understands the process and can advocate on your behalf. The earlier that you involve an attorney, the better your chances of receiving the benefits you need in a timely manner.