Injuries that happen in the workplace are always traumatic. Workplace injuries due to unstable work surfaces should never happen. When they do it is of utmost importance to know your personal and professional rights. There is no compromise when it comes to demanding a secure work environment and that always includes securing all work surfaces to prevent slips, trips or falls. The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009 data confirms that 605 workers were killed and an estimated 212,760 workers were seriously injured by falls in a diverse range of work environments, read the report here.
Defining Unstable Work Surfaces
What are unstable work surfaces? Every work place is unique, but all employers are required to adhere to industry health and safety requirements. Employers are required to implement fall protection and fall prevention education programs and examine all work surfaces to make certain they are secure and safe. Whether you work in an office, a factory, a school, a shopping mall, a laboratory, on a construction site, or in an outdoor location, your workplace surfaces need to be secure. Walking spaces should be free of obstructions or debris that can impede movement. Lighting should be adequate to prevent slips, trips and falls. Floors, counters and other work surfaces should be free of spills. There should be no wobbly counters or loose railings that might cause falls. Stairs should be secure and well lit. It is imperative that scaffolding is secured and stable. Any necessary rigging to secure equipment should meet industry standards and be securely in place and checked for safety often. Secure all tools and equipment to prevent injuries from falling objects. Ladders and scaffolding should meet industry standards and always be anchored. Floors should be non-slip and in excellent condition, with no chips, cracks or uneven areas that can contribute to falls. Outdoor work areas, walkways and parking lots should always be free of debris, and cleared of any slush, snow or ice. There should be no unprotected sides, wall holes or floor openings anywhere in the work environment.
Required personal protection equipment is also important in preventing and minimizing injuries from slips, trips or falls. The employer is responsible for educating all employees about required personal protection equipment and making sure that safety equipment is available and in use, read OHSA requirements for a safe workplace here. Injuries from unstable work surfaces can be minimized by having appropriate safety harnesses and tie off equipment for scaffolding or ladder work, proper footwear or safety boots, hard hats, eye protection and cut resistant gloves. Read our article about workplace slip and fall accidents for more information.
What Are The Consequences If Accidents Occur?
Consequences from slip, trip or fall injuries caused by unstable work surfaces have a wide range of often severe financial and health consequences. An employee injured in a fall due to unstable work surfaces may suffer substantial financial losses due to lost wages during time off work and fees for rehabilitation and health care. There are a variety of miscellaneous costs that add up during the time they have impaired mobility. If their injuries are chronic, an employee might lose their professional license, or their ability to drive. There can be high costs associated with hospital stays, perhaps even surgery and medications.
Falls due to unstable work surfaces can cause severe and chronic injury, even death. Rehabilitation time might be much longer than expected, and there is the threat of possible job loss, even a loss of career opportunities. Some fall related injuries have drastic health results, loss of limbs, nerve damage, even head and spinal injury. These types of injuries change a person’s life forever, and can result in chronic injury, including chronic pain. It is important to know your legal options and defend your personal and professional rights after any workplace fall. Read our article on injuries here.