Two weeks ago, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report, “Nonfatal Occupational Injuries And Illnesses Requiring Days Away From Work” (read it here). Using the latest numbers available (2014 data), the BLS found that people continue to get seriously hurt on the job where they fall down in slip and fall or trip and fall accidents (falls at the same level).
From the BLS news release:
- The number of fall accidents with injuries to workers in private industry is on the rise (16.6 in 2014).
- For those working in the transportation and warehousing industries, the rate of falls jumped for the second year in a row, to 30.4 in 2014.
- Workers in wholesale trade, health care and social assistance, and manufacturing were also at greater risk of being hurt on the job in a fall.
- For the construction industry, the rate of falls on the same level in construction went down in 2014, but remained higher than it was in 2011 and 2012.
The BLS report concerns “falls at the same level”, which is one of two kinds of fall accidents that can happen to someone. The other kind is “fall to a lower level,” which can be much more serious and life-threatening.
Two Kinds of Fall Accidents From an Injury Claim Perspective
There are two kinds of fall accidents according to researchers as well as injury lawyers and insurance adjusters. They are:
A. Fall at the Same Level (Slip and Fall)
In a fall at the same level, someone falls down and hits the surface at the same level on which he or she was standing when they slipped or tripped and lost their footing.
B. Fall to a Lower Level (Elevated Fall)
In a fall to a lower level, someone falls down past their footing in an elevated fall. These kinds of falls do not happen as often as falls at the same level, but when they do happen, they are more likely to cause permanent injuries like spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries or even death.
What Happens in a Fall? It’s So Fast, Little Time to React
In a fall, the victim does not have time to protect himself (or herself) from getting hurt. Research has shown that in an elevated fall:
- the victim will need around a third of a second to become aware they are falling.
- The body will take another 1/3 of a second to react.
- The body, meanwhile, is falling at a rate of around 7 feet in that same amount of time (2/3 of a second).
When someone does not fall very far, say in a slip and fall (fall at the same level), then their injuries may be limited to bruising, maybe a twisted ankle, and some embarrassment.
Some slip and fall accidents can result in serious injuries, of course. Elderly folk and young children are vulnerable to severe harm in any slip and fall accident.
Elevated falls are assumed to result in severe damage to the accident victim, they are often fatal or life-threatening. These falls (falls to a lower level) may not be for a long distances (say off a ladder and around ten feet) but they can end up paralyzing the accident victim through damage to the brain or spinal cord, or even result in death due to head trauma.
Earlier this year, the BLS released its research findings for fatal on the job accidents. From the BLS release (again, using 2014 data):
1. There has been an increase in fatal work injuries, with 4,679 fatal work injuries in 2014.
2. Fall accidents were up 10% in 2014.
3. Mining industry workers were at the greatest risk of a fatal accident on the job (up 17%).
4. Agriculture workers saw an increased risk of a fatal accident on the job of 14%.
5. Construction workers’ risk of death from an on the job accident rose 6%.
Falls on the job can happen when someone falls off a ladder or scaffold; when they lose their balance on a loading dock; when they cannot keep their footing on stairs; or when they are working on equipment or large vehicles (like cement mixers or cranes).
Falls Can Also Happen At Home or At School
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps track of fall accident statistics that are not work-related. Fall accidents that happen at home can be serious and life-threatening, too. Older adults are more vulnerable to serious injury from a fall of either kind (elevated fall or fall at the same level) than other adults.
According to CDC figures:
- One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
- Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
- Each year at least 250,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
Children suffer from fall accidents most often while on the playground according to the CDC. Again, from the CDC:
- About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
- About 75% of nonfatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds, most occur at schools and daycare centers.
- Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground-related injuries.
- Of them, 82 (56%) died from strangulation and 31 (20%) died from falls to the playground surface.
- Most of these deaths (70%) occurred on home playgrounds.
If you or a loved one suffers serious injury or death due to a fall, then you may have legal claims against those who are responsible for the accident. Negligence in upkeep and maintenance of a playground; the failure to repair a handrail; or an employer’s decision to disregard safety measures on a work site can all result in a fall that hurts or kills its victim.