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How employers can prevent fall injuries and deaths

OSHA updated its workplace safety rules in 2016, and it's still citing employers for violations of fall protection guidelines, which are the most common violations that the safety organization continues to see. Fatal falls account for 33% of all fatalities in the construction industry in Ohio and across the U.S. An estimated $70 billion in medical costs and workers' compensation benefits are paid out in connection with work-related falls annually.

The following are some guidelines on how to prevent falls on the job. Employers should always plan ahead and determine when workers will be working from an elevated surface. For example, workers may be working atop a tree or on scaffolding. Employers should then ensure that workers have received the right training and safety equipment, keeping in mind that injuries and fatalities occur even at heights of 6 feet.

Workers may need to use a personal fall arrest system, in which case employers must make sure they are wearing a harness. They should carefully choose their ladders and scaffolds based on the type of work being done. If they cannot foresee all fall-related hazards, they may hire a fall prevention expert. Lastly, employers may want to work with their insurance broker in order to choose the right type and amount of coverage based on fall risks.

Of course, not all falls can be prevented. Under workers' compensation law, injured employees can be reimbursed for their medical expenses, for a portion of their lost wages and even for short- or long-term disability leave regardless of who, if anyone, was to blame for the accident. Employers do have the ability to deny payment, though, so victims of a fall may want to see a lawyer. With legal representation, they may mount an appeal as a last resort or strive for a settlement.

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