OSHA records more than 50,000 incidents of workers being struck by falling objects each year. However, not all incidents are reported and investigated. Nationwide, the agency estimates that there are approximately 143 incidents per day. These objects include everything from hand tools and fasteners to steel beams and wooden trusses. When dropped from heights, even light objects have the potential to cause serious personal injuries to the person they strike.
Injuries Caused by Falling Objects
Falling objects can cause concussions, contusions, lacerations, and broken bones. They can also cause more serious injuries including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), paralysis, eye/vision loss, permanent disfigurement, or severed limbs. The extent of injuries is determined by a number of factors including how far the object fell, the weight of the object, and whether the worker was protected by a hardhat or other protective equipment.
OSHA Requires Protection for Workers
OSHA standards require site managers and property owners to secure all materials, equipment, and tools that are not in use. This includes all items on rooftops, scaffolding, cranes, etc. This reduces the possibility that these items can be kicked over, knocked off, or dropped on people working below. On construction sites where steel is being installed, the controlling contractor is required to halt construction processes below areas where steel is being erected.
On many construction sites, OSHA standards require workers to be provided with hardhat protection, guardrails, screens, and canopy structures that are capable of arresting the drop of falling objects.
Under the General Duty clause, OSHA can fine employers whose lax safety standards create an environment where dropped objects cause injury or death.
The Employer’s Liability for Falling Objects
A personal injury lawyer in Illinois can help workers who have been injured by falling objects. In Illinois, workers may seek compensation for lost income, loss of function, job retraining, and medical expenses including treatment, medication, physical therapy. Individuals may also seek workers’ compensation benefits to help offset the loss of income stemming from partial or permanent loss of limb function.
In Illinois, injured workers are required to report work-related injuries as soon as possible. Injured workers should carefully read their employment contracts and consult with a personal injury lawyer to ensure compliance with company policy in this regard. Moreover, individuals who have been injured by falling objects should thoroughly document the incident and their injuries with photographic evidence, eyewitness statements, and medical reports.