Download PDF version (1333.4k). The full text of this article is available as a PDF document.
Falls are the second-leading cause of accidental death after motor-vehicle accidents in the United States, both in the home and the workplace. No worker is immune to falling--everyone is a potential victim. Falls can be prevented, and one of the steps toward doing so is to sponsor an ongoing fall-prevention safety program. The first step towards fall safety is to audit your office, plant, and yard. Look for obvious areas where falls could happen, such as platforms and walkways without railings, damaged steps and ladders, cluttered areas, and oil slicks. Then look for areas where the hazards are not as obvious, like loose railings and changes in floor elevation. Have others make a similar audit to assure complete coverage. Look at accident reports filed by workers for the last few years. Note the types of falls that have occurred frequently and make changes to prevent reoccurrence. Here are some tips for workers that can be integrated into a fall-prevention program: 1. Report all fall-hazard areas immediately. Prevent accidents before they occur. 2. Use proper footwear. Sturdy high-top shoes and boots provide ankle support, and hard-toe footwear should be mandatory in areas where falling objects are a danger. 3. Keep walkways clear at all times. Hoses, tools, pallets and scrap material on catwalks or walkways can quickly lead to trouble. 4. Clean all spills promptly. Both oil and water can cause slips that lead to back problems, sprained ankles, or even death. "Caution: Slippery Floor" signs are a temporary step that should only be used until spill is cleaned and made safe. Use caution around areas that are frequently wet, and don't allow oil and grease to accumulate on floors and walkways. 5. Specify slip-resistant surfaces on new equipment and for building modifications or additions, and make sure handholds and railings are properly installed and in good condition. 6. Inspect ladders and scaffolding and instruct workers in their safe use. Climb down from elevated surfaces--never jump. Use fall-protection devices when needed or required.