Serious or Fatal Slip and Fall Injuries: The Employer’s Duty of Care

Serious or Fatal Slip and Fall Injuries: The Employer’s Duty of Care

Every worker on the job here in Indiana and Illinois should understand that his or her employer has a legal duty to provide a safe workplace.  This is true under both state and federal law (see, e.g., 29 CFR 1910.28).

It is not an option: legally, employers must take all reasonable precautions to make sure their employees are safe from harm in a slip and fall accident as they go about their workday.

2017 OSHA Rule for Fall Hazards

One big example here is the federal regulatory agency, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).  OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor.  Its job is to set up regulations governing industry safety standards that apply across the nation.  OSHA is also responsible for sending out field investigators to make sure that these federal safety laws are being followed.

This year, a new OSHA Rule was in effect for the first time, updating the requirements for “walking-working surface” standards related to fall hazards.  The new OSHA Rule also set up new Personal Protective Equipment standards.  This set up federal requirements for “personal fall protection systems.”

It applies both to general industry workers as well as specifically to construction workers who are known to be at the highest risk of a fatal fall injury.  You can read OSHA Rule here.

From OSHA’s Dr. David Michaels:

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries.  OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.”

Protect Workers from Slip and Fall Accidents: Equipment and Devices

Companies have to do all sorts of things to keep employees safe from slip and fall injuries while on the job.  One major protection offered to workers in various industries here in Indiana and Illinois are providing the workers with safety equipment and devices that work to minimize the risk of  a slip and fall.

Examples of equipment and devices that reduce the risk of a serious fall injury:

  • Guardrails
  • Toeboards
  • Screens
  • Canopies
  • Handrails
  • Floor markings
  • Stepstools
  • Bundled Cords
  • Adequate Lighting
  • Safety Nets
  • Personal Fall Protection
  • Appropriate Footwear
  • Hard Hats
  • Travel Restraints.

Protect Employees from Slip and Fall Injuries: Training and Systems

Employers must do more that setting up equipment and providing things to workers in an effort to avoid a slip and fall accident.  Another major protection that should be provided to employees is continued education, training, and safety systems that work together to keep workers on the job safe from a slip and fall accident.

Employers should have employee training and education on worker safety that includes the danger of a slip and fall while on the job.  Training is required in some industries, such as the construction industry, by federal regulation.  For instance, federal regulation 29 CFR 1226.502 mandates training of construction workers in fall protection standards.

Training can include classroom lessons as well as video or online classes.  However, all training must be tailored to the particular worker to insure that he or she can fully understand what is being taught in the safety curriculum.  For instance, if the worker speaks Spanish as his or her primary language, then the courses need to be provided in Spanish as well as English.

At a minimum, workers must be educated on what the risks are of a slip and fall accident in their work environment.  They must know the fall hazards that they may face there. 

Workers at the local railroad yard will face different fall hazards than those at work at the nearby hospital or the highway construction zone.  Their training must be tailored to their situation.

Workers should know what to do to prevent a slip and fall accident.  They should be instructed in procedures and best practices to minimize the danger of falling while on the job.

Employees should also be trained in what to do in the event of a fall.  Where is the first aid kit?  Should the victim be moved? 

Additionally, workers should know how best to help the slip and fall accident victim immediately after the event, as well as the phone numbers and contact information for the nearest medical provider and emergency care.   An example here: the CDC suggests that for some companies, providing key chains with the important contact information in the event of an accident is a useful tool to help employees dealing with a serious worker fall accident.

Employer Liability When Duty of Care is Breached

In both Indiana and Illinois, there are workers’ compensation laws that cover claims made by workers who are hurt on the job.  For workers who are seriously injured or killed in a fall accident at their workplace, these workers’ compensation statutes work to provide compensation for their harm.

How the employer failed to meet its duty of care will be addressed within this workers’ compensation system.

However, for those injured in the State of Illinois things may be different than if they are hurt or killed in a fall while at work in Indiana.  This is because the two states have two different legal systems.

To determine whether or not the fall accident victim has additional legal redress available under the state laws or under the federal regulatory system, the individual case must be analyzed as it applies to the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. 

Was there a blatant disregard of worker safety by the employer?  Did gross negligence of employee safety result in a fatal fall? 

These questions must be investigated factually and then the pertinent state and federal laws applied for that case.

The reality is that employers will put profits over people.  Workers will be hurt because companies fail in the duty of care. For more, see:

Workers are seriously injured and killed in fall accidents on the job.  Not every company respects its duty of care that it legally owes to its employees.  Let’s all be careful out there!



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