When a work injury is a fall, what issues need to be investigated?

Falling is a common source of injuries in the workplace. On their website, the CDC reports that in 2009, 605 workers were killed and roughly 212,760 were injured as a result of falls in the workplace.

A serious work injury from a fall can occur under a wide range of circumstances, including a plummet off of construction scaffolding and a slip on a wet floor. For a traumatic brain injury, spinal injury or broken bones, no great height is necessary.

As one example, the Billings Gazette recently reported on an ongoing investigation of an employee death at a Walmart in Kalispell. At this point, it's believed that that the worker fell off a movable staircase. Some of the issues that would need to be investigated include the following:

Structural defects. When someone falls off a staircase, ladder, scaffolding, or ledge, or trips or slips on pavement, it's important to look into whether any of these objects had some kind of structural defect that contributed to the fall. In addition to structural defects, it's also important to look at general unsafe conditions, including surfaces that are constantly (and unnecessarily) slippery.

Emergency response time. One of the issues getting investigated in the Kalispell fall is the time it took for the worker to receive medical help. Regulations require a first aid response within five minutes; if the workplace isn't reachable within five minutes by ambulance or a fire department, there need to be employees on the premises trained in responding to an injury, along with other medical events.

Witness accounts. It's important to sort through all the witness testimony, address conflicting details, and review any surveillance video. For example, in the Walmart case there were initial reports that the fatally injured employee fell from a tall ladder. There have also been conflicting reports as to how long it took other employees to discover the injured worker.

Victim's medical history. Did the victim have a medical condition or use medication linked to symptoms of dizziness or loss of balance? Did employers know about this?

Improper training. Could the fall have been a result of insufficient training in how to complete a task or use a piece of equipment? Did the employers provide safety training and establish safety guidelines in the workplace?

These are just some of the issues that need to be addressed when looking into a workplace fall. Sometimes, the fall could have been prevented entirely; or, at the very least, the injuries might have been less severe.

If you sustain a work injury, don't hesitate to contact us for legal advice and assistance. We will fight for you to obtain the means to cope and heal after your injury.