Over the weekend, two accidental fall death stories caught my eye.
A 21-year old actor died when he slipped and fell from a fire escape on Friday in New York City.
On Saturday, a 60-year old baseball fan died when he fell from the upper deck of Turner Field in Atlanta.
This led me to look into the statistics for accidental deaths due to falls in the US. According to the CDC, over 30,000 unintentional fall deaths occurred in 2013. The CDC reported over 130,000 unintentional injury deaths in 2013, including motor vehicle accident and poisoning deaths, each accounting for over 30,000 unintentional deaths in 2013 as well.
As we approach the fall season, which inevitably leads to winter in many parts of the US, a focus should be placed on preventing conditions that can lead to slips, trips, and falls. In some of my consulting work, I review insurance loss runs for many industries. Construction of course continues to list falls as the leading cause of injury and death. This includes falls from over six feet in height as well as falls at the working level resulting in injury or death. Across other industries, slips, trips, and falls are of concern as well. For industries with third parties on their site like clients, customers, vendors, subcontractors and other guests, attention should be paid to maintaining good housekeeping conditions to prevent falls. If your own worker falls on your site, that is one issue, if a third party falls on your site, there are many insurance and liability concerns at play.
Coach your employees to recognize housekeeping, storage, and staging conditions that may lead to slips, trips, and falls. Take the “your momma doesn’t work here” approach and train employees to clean up messes that they made or have observed, or contact someone who can fix the condition. Once the condition is reported for remediation, block or barricade the area so that no one can be exposed to injury.
As the snow flies, ensure that your company has a plan for ensuring safe walking and working conditions on jobsites, parking lots, sidewalks, and other common areas. Basic planning and controls to keep walkways clear can go a long way in preventing injuries and death.
Coach employees to take these safety lessons home with them. As the unintentional death statistics show, Americans are more likely to die off of the job. Safety is a holistic mindset and there are many ways to ensure your people bring safety home with them:
- Use established communication pathways like posting areas, email, and company newsletters to get information out about fall prevention.
- Address fall prevention at every safety meeting. It affects everyone, everday, on and off the job.
- Include home safety topics whenever possible to ensure the holistic safety mindset.