Many people watched with awe in the 1990s as shuttle astronauts floated in zero-gravity space. Back on earth, gravity is not always so amusing.
Gravity is one the chief factors in work injuries – when workers fall themselves and when workers are struck by falling objects from above.
When we fall
Falls are the No. 1 cause of serious work injuries. Workers fall from rooftops, vehicles, cherry-picker buckets, hydraulic lifts, ladders, scaffolds, floor holes, temporary ramps and bridges, soft walkways and even trees.
Even minor falls, such as slipping in a store aisle or stepping off a curb — can lead to temporary or permanent disability.
A lot of effort has been put into designing fall protection systems such as safety nets, harnesses and retracing devices, which have saved workers from falls from telephone poles, etc.
On the other hand, OSHA says more lives are saved by fall prevention systems like guardrails and banisters.
OSHA requires workers to be protected whenever a construction worker is six feet off the ground or more, or when a general industry worker is four feet off the ground or more. Unfortunately, these rules are routinely ignored by co-workers, supervisors, employers and property owners who downplay the dangers.
When objects fall on us
Workers are hurt when small items like hammers and tools, fall from a height and strike them. But it is not uncommon for very large items to come crashing down – not only tools and debris, but even other workers or entire structures. “Struck by object” is one of the most common injuries in construction and industrial jobs, including head injuries, bone fractures and serious lacerations.
Warehouse workers are susceptible to merchandise falls. When an entire shelving structure comes down, it can crush a person, even if employees are wearing hard hats or shielded by roll cages.
OSHA urges employers to train workers in the use and maintenance of fall protection and prevention systems. This includes educating workers about securing tools and materials when working at elevation and educating workers below to be aware and to always hear head protection.
Your line of defense
A government watchdog like OSHA setting accident prevention standards cannot prevent all injuries. Some falling accidents and falling object injuries will continue to happen as long as there are humans working in close proximity to each other – and as long as gravity continues to do its thing.
If you are injured on the job, work with lawyers who know Louisiana workers' compensation law. They can maximize your employer-sponsored benefits and pursue any third-party personal injury claims you may have.
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