In any job setting, falls are an ever present hazard that can occur even during simple daily activities such as walking or climbing a ladder. The 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 605 workers were killed and at least 212, 760 workers seriously injured by falls. The construction industry experiences the largest frequency of fall associated fatalities. Non-fatal fall injuries occur in the health services and in the wholesale and retail industries. Overall, building cleaning and maintenance, transportation and material moving, healthcare support, and construction/extraction sectors are more at risk of fall injuries. Low safety standards and unsafe practices are responsible for falls at the workplace.
Researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine published a study in a recent issue of the Journal of Neurotrauma that falls are the leading cause of spinal injuries in the country. At least 41.5% of spinal injuries seen in the ERs across America are caused by falls. This is more than the 35% of spinal injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. The John Hopkins team reviewed more than 43, 000 medical records of patients who came in for emergency treatment for spinal cord injuries between 2007 and 2009. The review allowed the team to classify the causes of injuries and thereby determine the causes for the maximum number of injuries. It was also found that while the injury rate decreased among the younger group aged 18 – 64, it increased among older patients above the age of 65.
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has estimated that the cost associated with fall associated injuries among the elderly is around $ 30 billion annually. The Johns Hopkins researchers found that older people are four times more likely to die in the ER after incurring a severe spinal cord injury. In an in-patient setting, they were 6 times more likely to die compared to a younger patient.
Fall injuries are covered by workers’ compensation and are a considerable financial burden on the employers. In the US, workers’ compensation and the medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents is estimated at around $70 billion per year. Usually, personal injury claims are evaluated on the basis of a detailed medical record review that would include a clear medical chronology or chronological listing of medical encounters.
Industry leaders, regulators, labor unions, employers, employees, professional associations, researchers and safety professionals all need to actively work to introduce practical and effective fall prevention strategies, improving the job environment, and promoting flawless safety standards. This requires continuous and successful education of the workers as well.