FALLS IN THE WORKPLACE
Falls are a hazard found in many work settings. A fall can occur during walking or climbing a ladder to change a light fixture, or as a result of a complex series of events affecting an ironworker 80 feet above the ground.
Circumstances associated with fall incidents in the work environment frequently involve:
- Slippery, cluttered, or unstable walking/working surfaces
- Unprotected edges
- Floor holes and wall openings
- Unsafely positioned ladders
- Misused fall protection
Based on 2014 published data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 261,930 private industry and state and local government workers missed one or more days of work due to injuries from falls on the same level or to lower levels1, and 798 workers died from such falls2.
The construction industry experienced the highest frequency of fall-related deaths, while the highest counts of nonfatal fall injuries continue to be associated with the health services and the wholesale and retail industries. Particularly at risk of fall injuries are those working in:
- Healthcare support
- Building cleaning and maintenance
- Transportation and material moving
- Construction and extraction occupations
Fall injuries create a considerable financial burden: workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents have been estimated at $70 billion annually in the United Sates . Many other countries face similar challenges in the workplace. In fact, the international public health community has a strong interest in developing strategies to reduce the toll of fall injuries.
Federal regulations and industry consensus standards provide specific measures and performance-based recommendations for fall prevention and protection. However, persistent unsafe practices and low safety culture across many industries define steady fall injury rates year after year.
Successful reduction of fall injury and death rates requires continued concerted efforts of regulators and industry leaders, professional associations and labor unions, employers and employees, safety professionals and researchers in enhancing the work environment, implementing new effective fall prevention and protection technologies, and improving the work safety culture through educating the workforce. As a leader in occupational safety research, NIOSH plays a key role in these complex fall-injury prevention efforts.
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Planning and Guidance of Fall-Related Research at NIOSH
NIOSH fall-injury prevention research strategic planning and goal setting takes into consideration the magnitude or emergence of the problem as evidenced by data, immediacy of need expressed by stakeholders, resources and expertise in the goal area, current research, strength of partnerships in current research, and status and momentum on the course of research-to-practice. The strategic planning process is enhanced with input from the National Academy of Sciences program review.
Program contact: Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D.
Protective Technology Branch
(304) 285-5910; HHsiao@cdc.gov