Preventing falls in the workplace

Preventing falls in the workplace

Falls are easily one of the most common issues seen in the workplace and is one of the largest areas of exposure to loss.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) contributes these circumstances with the most frequent falls:

  • Slippery, cluttered, or unstable walking/working surfaces
  • Unprotected edges
  • Floor holes and wall openings
  • Unsafely positioned ladders
  • Misused fall protection

The NIOSH maintains that it takes a concerted effort of industry leaders, professional associations, employers and employees to enhance the work environment by including a combination of effective fall prevention and improving the work safety culture.

Using ladders properly

More than 500,000 people are treated each year for ladder-related falls. Falls from ladders, stools or other elevated surfaces are of particular concern. The following safety measures/work practices apply:

Makeshift ladders – Never use chairs, furniture, boxes or other makeshift platforms in place of a ladder.

Stools – Single-step stools often create more safety problems than they solve. They are often unstable, have a small step surface and offer no additional support to an off-balance worker. Consider replacing stools with a lightweight safety stepladder (e.g., 1-3 steps) fitted with a wide, platform step at the top; non-slip safety feet on each leg; and a railing around the platform to help the user keep/regain balance. Safety stepladders are inexpensive and available at a variety of hardware and office supply stores.

Stepladders – Stepladders must have non-slip safety feet on each leg and be tall enough for the intended job. Never stand on the top or first step down – if you cannot reach the item from the second step down, get a taller ladder. Set up the ladder on an even surface, fully opened with the spreader arms locked into position. Avoid carrying items or boxes up or down the ladder. Keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Have someone hand items up to you for placing on a shelf or for receiving items that you pass down.

Did you know there’s an app for that?

NIOSH developed an award-winning mobile app to prevent extension and step ladder-related fall injuries and deaths. The app includes an angle measuring tool that uses visual, sound and vibration cues to set an extension ladder at the proper angle. Download for free at Apple Store and Google Play available in English and Spanish.

Source: NIOSH [2017]. NIOSH Ladder Safety App: Infographic/Flyer. By Simeonov P. and Webb S. Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication 2017–129.

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