Falling off a ladder, scaffolding or roof is one of the most common ways that a person is injured at work. People may fall off edges of surfaces or through unprotected holes in floors. Recognizing the danger of falls, Minnesota law requires construction workers to be protected from falling any time they are working 6 feet off the ground or higher; other workers must be protected when they are only 4 feet off the ground.
Holes and ledges can be protected in a few different ways. Guard rails can be installed along the edge of surfaces to both show workers that the surface is ending and to block workers from falling off the surface. For holes in the floor, like those found on construction sites between floors of a building, safety nets can be installed to highlight the hole and catch falling workers. Either way, the safety system should be installed as soon as possible because a fall can happen at any time.
Sometimes, no physical barrier can be put in place to prevent a worker’s fall, like when a person is working on a roof. In this case, the employer should provide the worker with a harness system attached to the roof to catch them if they start to fall. While the Minnesota Safety Council prefers fall prevention systems like guardrails to fall protection systems, like nets or harnesses, either can prevent serious injury.
Ladders are a unique source of danger found in many workplaces, not just construction sites. Each time a worker uses a ladder, there is a risk of falling and suffering a serious injury because a ladder can slip and move while in use. Workers must be careful to inspect both the ladder and the ground before use and only use ladders that comply with OSHA standards.
If a worker falls and injures themselves, they probably will not be able to sue their employer. Instead, they may be able to collect workers’ compensation to pay for their medical expenses and lost time at work. While not formal lawsuits, workers’ compensation claims are legal claims, and an attorney may help draft the claim and present an injured worker’s case at a hearing.