In 2014, fall protection was the most frequently cited OSHA violation. In fact, fall protection has been the most frequently cited OSHA violation since 2011. Falls from height have been a serious issue. For example, falls to lower levels were the second leading cause of all fatal occupational injuries in 2013.
Similarly, there were 57,020 nonfatal injuries reported in 2013 due to falls to lower levels with an average of 20 days of work missed per incident.
Perhaps OSHA citations for fall protection violations remain a widespread problem because workers believe that they don’t need safety equipment. They think that if they were to fall, they could catch themselves and that using safety equipment will just slow them down.
The average person will fall roughly four feet (1.2 meters) in the first 0.5 second of a fall event. This fact makes catching oneself impossible. Safety equipment might slow a worker down, but safety equipment isn’t designed to speed up the working process.
Safety equipment is designed to help a worker return home at the end of the shift. Safety equipment might be uncomfortable to wear for hours, but hopefully everyone would rather be a little uncomfortable than risk falling to his or her death.
Even the most careful workers are susceptible to accidents. There are too many variables involved in a fall event outside of workers’ control, such as working conditions, the specific job site, and human error.
For instance, if a surface is off by ¼ inch vertically, a “normal” person will trip, which could cause that person to fall. Without safety equipment, the slightest change in circumstances could cause a worker to fall, which may cause serious or fatal injuries.
With the continued advancement of safety technology and equipment, why choose not to take advantage of it? After all, the equipment is protecting workers’ lives. The risk is too great. Don’t let pride or ignorance keep employees from working as safe as possible.
The case study below demonstrates the importance of choosing to wear safety equipment. Russ Youngstrom is a worker who was given the proper fall protection equipment, but chose not to use it. His decision has impacted both him and his family. Russ now travels the country urging workers to learn from his mistake. Here is his story.