Fall Protection: Can You Afford to Ignore It?


The average occupational work place does not have an elevated work procedure that can be properly enforced. Typically, this is because they lack the proper on site resources.

There are many types of fall protection equipment that can feasibly be obtained, ranging on many scales. However, finding a site or job-specific solution can be a challenge for any company. This is what encourages one to ignore the prevalent and deadly hazard of falls.

A Common High Cost Accident

According to OSHA, falls were responsible for 35% of deaths on construction sites in 2011. That made falls the number one killer in construction which claimed 259 lives. The Bureau of Labor Statistics published that falls made up 12% of all fatal occupational injuries by major event in 2011. That statistic included transportation incidents, which were responsible for 41% of all fatal occupational injuries by major event in 2011. In total, 533 people died from falling to a lower level at an occupational work place in 2011.

Due to hidden costs, accidents can be more expensive than one may realize. With every workplace accident there are direct and indirect costs. Direct costs are apparent ones such as workers’ compensation claims that deal with the majority of medical costs.

Indirect costs are less obvious, such as the cost to train and compensate a replacement worker, repair damaged property (if applicable), investigate the accident, implement corrective actions, maintain insurance coverage; workers experience lower moral after an accident occurs, increased absenteeism, and poorer customer relations.

According to the National Safety Council the average cost of a fatality was around $910,000. That cost excludes property damage and was found in 1998. Jan Wachter, an associate professor for the department of safety sciences at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, claims that in 2006 the cost of a fatality in the United States was around $960,000. He estimates that given inflation and other factors, the cost today would be around $1.3 million per fatality.

Elevated Work Options

Almost every general industrial workplace does or needs elevated work performed to function. Elevated work can include installing or maintaining lights (inside and outside), fans, signs, fire sprinklers, ventilation ducts, piping, insulation, gutters, windows, cranes, wiring, walls, roofing, security cameras or any time someone is 4 feet above the ground performing a job (according to OSHA).

Common methods of accessing elevated work include ladders, scaffolding, scissor lifts and using aerial platforms which are raised by fork trucks. Every type of elevation method has its pros and cons. However, many companies are choosing to purchase articulated lifts. These vehicles allow the operator to maneuver into tight places, see 360 degrees around them, provide service to elevated problems quickly to eliminate down time, and perform these functions while being surrounded by a railing.

It provides the company with quick, safe response to fix or access many of their elevated problems. Generally an articulated lift can be purchased from anywhere between $20,000 – $40,000.

This initially may seem costly compared to other elevation methods. However, compared to what a fall can be, this cost is minuscule.

With the statistics and costs revolving around a company’s elevated work procedure, it proves that it is necessary to take another look. Review the options best for your company and be proactive in preventing accidents from occurring. That may come from specific procedures in place or equipment the company needs to purchase.

But in the end, for those that choose to ignore fall hazards, remember gravity never quits.