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Will OSHA Changes Improve Employee Workplace Safety?

Will OSHA Changes Improve Employee Workplace Safety?

What are the most common causes of falls in the workplace? Will updates to OSHA's standards reduce the risk to workers in the United States and improve employee safety? It is estimated that more than 202,066 workers suffer fall-related accidents and 345 suffer fall-related fatalities each year. Workplace slips and falls are among the most common causes of injuries. Many of these are preventable through adherence to established safety standards. However, the high rate of injuries shows that current standards don't go far enough to protect workers. This is why in 2017, OSHA updated safety requirements, most of which are currently in effect.

Construction Workers at Greatest Risk of Fall-Related Injury and Death

Construction workers are at greatest risk of fall-related injuries. Each year, an average of 310 construction workers suffer fatal falls, and more than 10,350 suffer serious injuries. Falls from scaffolding are the most dangerous, and construction workers suffer just under 86% of fatal falls from scaffolds. Construction workers account for 81% of fatal falls from roofs, and approximately 57% of fatal falls from ladders.

OSHA Updates the Rules

OSHA's updates are expected to reduce the rates of injuries and deaths upon full implementation. However, since most rules became effective at the end of 2018, it is unclear how effective they are at reducing slip and fall injury risks. Even so, the agency estimates that the new rules will reduce annual fatality rates by 29 fatalities, and annual lost-workday injuries by 5,842.

There are many crucial provisions within the updated rules that could help protect workers in all industries. These provisions give employers flexibility in determining which safety systems are most appropriate for the conditions on their worksite(s) so long as they meet the updated requirements. These include the installation and maintenance of workplace appropriate guardrails and safety nets, personal fall arrest systems and positioning systems, travel restraint systems, and ladder safety systems. These devices have demonstrated proven effectiveness at reducing the rates of slip and fall accidents at work. Critically, the rules put the onus of training staff on how to use the safety features and maintenance of such systems squarely on the shoulders of the employer.

Of OSHA's rule changes, the only one that will not be in effect by the end of 2019 is the requirement to replace cages and wells with ladder safety or fall arrest systems on ladders over 24 feet in length. This rule won't go into effect for nearly 17 more years. The prolonged duration of this change is of significant concern for employee safety given the high rates of serious injuries suffered in falls from ladders.

Brad Pistotnik Law is a Wichita law firm that represents clients in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and Illinois following work-related accidents that result in personal injury or death. Contact us today to learn more about our legal services and the steps we take to recover compensation from employers who don't take employee safety seriously.