Fall Injuries in the Workplace

In all occupational settings, whether it be on a construction site, a health care facility, or a grocery store, falls are a persistent hazard.  Just the simple act of walking or climbing a ladder can result in a fall.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2009, 605 workers were killed and an estimated 212,760 workers were seriously injured by falls at the workplace.

In the data provided by the BLS, the construction industry experienced the highest frequency of fall-related fatalities, but the highest counts of nonfatal fall injuries were associated with the health services and wholesale and retail industries.  Those industries with workers with high risk for falls are healthcare support, building cleaning and maintenance, transportation and material moving, and construction and extraction occupations.

Fall incidents at the workplace usually involve slippery, cluttered, or unstable surfaces; unprotected edges; floor holes and wall openings; unsafely positioned ladders; and misused fall protection.  Even though federal regulations and industry standards provide specific measures and performance-based recommendations for fall prevention and protection, unsafe practices and low safety culture across many industries are the cause of steady fall rates year after year.  Medical costs and workers’ compensation associated with occupational falls has been estimated at approximately $70 billion annually in the United States. 

To successfully reduce fall injury and fatality rates will require the continued efforts of regulators and industry leaders, professional associations and unions, employers and employees  all working together to enhance the work environment, implement new effective fall prevention and protection, and keep improving the work safety culture through continuous education of the workforce.