The Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced that serious injuries from falls have risen in the past few years, and the number of citations issued to companies who fail to protect workers has more than doubled since 2011.

Although deaths from workplace falls have remained constant over the last five years, MNOSHA said serious injuries from falls doubled in 2012. They attempted to remedy the problem in 2013 by coming down harder on companies who failed to comply with workplace safety regulations. The administration issued 438 fall protection citations to companies in 2013, a huge spike from 2011 when only 173 tickets were issued.

“Typically, fall protection [equipment] is easily available. You can get it for less than $100,’’ said James Krueger, director of MNOSHA. “A majority of companies want to comply and do that routinely to keep their employees safe,” he added.

Three-Step Approach

Protecting workers from falls at work is a three-step approach. In order to best prevent serious and fatal fall injuries:

  • Employers must purchase and install the necessary safety equipment.
  • Employers must adequately train employees to use the equipment and gear.
  • Employees must use the equipment when on the job.

MNOSHA is doing what it can to ensure businesses adhere to safety equipment and training policies, but even then accidents still occur. Terry Hukreide, an employee of Adolfson and Peterson Construction, said overconfidence and the thrill of risk could keep employees from following proper safety procedures.

“It’s an inherent human trait that we take chances,” Hukriede said. “Sometimes a worker says, ‘I only have to go out there for one second, and I’m not going to fall.’ But that’s the guy who ends up falling.”

Worker’s compensation attorney Ben Heimerl said MNOSHA citations aren’t always enough, and injured workers need to hold companies accountable.

“Many people find the idea of suing people distasteful, however, the best way to get companies to take safety seriously is to make it expensive when they don’t. When you’re injured at work, the only remedy is the workers’ compensation system. Minnesota workers’ compensation is not as lucrative as the insurance companies would like you to believe, but it does provide some very good benefits and its main goal is to get people healthy and back to work,” said Heimerl. “If someone other than your employer is at fault for the fall, there may be a claim against that company or individual as well.”

Related source: Star-Tribune