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Each year in the Unites States, over 100,000 falls are reported. Falls are also the number one cause of workplace death. Common vocations particularly at risk for falls include forestry, fishing, and construction-based jobs. All of these occupations have minimum safety guidelines that employers, like yourself, should follow to protect your workers from fall-related injury. Not only will investing in fall protection training and equipment keep your workers safe, but it will keep your company financially safe as well.
OSHA is serious about fall protection.
One of the simplest ways failing to provide basic fall protection and to follow workplace safety guidelines is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the power to fine you if you fail to provide a safe working environment. In fact, in 2012, OSHA fined a stucco contracting company for not providing fall protection for employees. This company was using unsafe scaffolding techniques, and the ensuing fines exceeded $108,000.
OSHA will penalize your business even more fully if fall protection violations are seen as willful-- meaning your company is fully aware of industry expectations but is deliberately choosing not to meet them. On top of willful violations, serious violations also carry charges. These can apply to the same incident, as violations can be both serious and willful. A single violation, therefore, can end up costing a company thousands of dollars in profit.
Keep in mind injuries do not have to actually occur for fines to be levied. A simple inspection will be enough to diagnose violations and incur fines.
Employees can sue for injuries and worker's compensation.
If you escape the all-seeing eye of OSHA, your next trouble will come if you actually have an employee injured due to negligence of fall protection procedures. For example, if you own a roofing company and one of your employees falls from ladder not properly secured and suffers serious injury, you will be responsible under worker's compensation laws to pay for injury and lost time. A basic workplace compensation claim, where an employee is out of work for 3 days or longer, usually amounts to an average of $38,500 billed to your company-- for just one employee. Fall related claims account for 20% of all worker's compensation payouts.
Your employee, however, also has the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit against you for more extensive damages, including punitive damages. Worker's compensation should cover reasonable economic compensations, but if the amount is too little for the type of injury sustained and if you were intentionally promoting unsafe conditions, further lawsuits will ensure payment. For example, if a person becomes paralyzed after a fall, they could sue for loss of income, but also for potential future income lost, due to the need to be trained and begin a new career. Furthermore, they could sue for emotional damages for how much their lives have changed and for coverage of future medical costs that will come because of paralyzation. In short, final damages could extend into the millions.
This is not a chance you should take with your business. Even if you have insurance to cover these types of lawsuits, it will still cost your business money through increased insurance costs, and many policies have a cap. If the awarded amount in court exceeds the cap, any exceeding amounts will come out the company profits and assets.
Ensuring workplace safety is a number one concern for an employer. Because there are hundreds of falls each year in the workplace, now is the time to make sure your employees and your business are protected. Investing in fall protection training and equipment is like investing in insurance-- paying a little now to save yourself from paying a lot later.