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When it comes to the potential causes of major injuries and deaths for workers across the country, working at heights continues to appear high on the list every year. In fact, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls are a big issue. For example, in the construction industry (the sector that is statistically one of the most dangerous for workers), close to 40 percent of 2015 deaths in the industry were caused by falls.
Research shows that far too many people end up hurting themselves or passing away because of their work on ladders, rooftops or other spots above the ground. As a result, it is extremely important for business owners, managers and team leaders to be aware of the potential hazards personnel face when working at heights as well as the best ways to keep employees safe on the job so as to avoid fatalities and injuries. Read on for some tips you can follow to minimize the harm from height-related workplace issues.
One of the first steps to ensure the safety of workers is to plan appropriately before any jobs at heights begin. Upcoming work should be examined for any potential risks, and those risks should be weighed. Consider things like the amount of time workers will need to spend on a task that will be done at heights, how far up they will be and the condition of the surface on which they will be working.
Wherever possible, try to find ways to avoid having people working at heights and instead devise alternative solutions that don't pose such a risk. However, if tasks in the air are unavoidable, it is critical that the work is continually supervised and that only the most experienced and well-trained staff are allocated to the jobs.
It pays to have workers complete tasks from an existing spot that has been found to be safe in the past. If this is not possible, the working conditions should be examined to check that floor-hole covers won't become a trip hazard, people can get to and from each spot without being at risk of falling or injuring themselves, and workers can move about safely and easily stretch and bend from their working position. Don't forget that you should also have an emergency evacuation and rescue plan in place just in case an incident occurs.
It is also essential for employees who must complete jobs at heights to have the right equipment available to them. Workers need to be strapped into a harness or other safety equipment that prevents them from falling and injuring themselves.
Personnel should also be protected from any potential falling objects or structures and always wear hard hats, gloves and goggles when necessary. Other precautions such as tower scaffolds, guardrails and scissor lifts can offer added protection.
In addition, the safety equipment used at heights should be maintained, checked regularly and kept in mint condition. Any pieces of equipment that experience an impact must be immediately replaced, as they can become faulty.
One of the most common issues that occurs when working at heights involves people falling off a ladder. As a result, these tools need to be used carefully and correctly. For starters, make sure the ladders used on the worksite are both strong enough and suited to the job being completed. Always position ladders on level ground so they are stable. Steer clear of wet, icy, snowy or muddy surfaces, as well as electrical power lines. It is also preferable for ladders to be secured before use.
Workers should be trained to check ladders and ensure that the hinged metal braces are locked down and straight before they start climbing. Otherwise, the ladder may fall over or buckle. It is also important that workers don't sit or stand on the top step, or lean out too far to the left or right of the ladder, as this can cause a fall.
When working from a ladder, personnel should utilize a holster or toolbelt to carry their supplies, tools or other equipment. This will allow them to have their hands free for climbing safely up and down. It is preferable for employees to keep the time spent working from a ladder to 30 minutes or less so they don't become too fatigued and risk a fall.
If someone becomes injured in the workplace, it is imperative that records are kept of the incident and of any injuries that occur as a result. A detailed incident report should be written including the date, time and specific location of the accident; the events leading up to it; the environmental conditions (where relevant); and any damage that occurred to equipment or the workspace.
Finally, employees should know their rights if they are harmed on the job, as they very well may be eligible to put in a workers' compensation claim or even file a lawsuit against their employer.
Thomas J. Henry is a renowned trial attorney who has been practicing law for more than 25 years. He has represented countless victims of catastrophic trucking and auto accidents, on-the-job accidents, medical malpractice claims, and many other claims across the United States. Contact Henry at www.thomasjhenrylaw.com.