Employers need to be proactive about fall prevention
Slip, trip and falls are serious business. While many people think of them as fairly minor accidents, too often, they are life-altering. Indeed, falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in Ohio and nationwide. Falls can cause fractures, herniated discs, knee injuries, muscle strains, and other significant injuries. They can also turn deadly; in 2019, worker deaths caused by slips, trips and falls rose by 11.3%.
While the specific fall hazards workers will encounter varies from workplace to workplace, the danger exists in every workplace. Employers need to take fall prevention seriously, and workers who are injured need to know their rights.
Contributing factors to falls at work
Walking surfaces are a key factor in work-related slip and falls. Employers need to keep walkways clear of slippery substances, trip hazards such as loose floorboards, corrosion, and other hazards. If a particular hazard can't be fixed right away, then the employer needs to put up appropriate signage and guide workers around the obstacle or close off the area entirely. The type of flooring itself plays a role as well; employers should consider installing flooring with higher friction in areas where slip and falls are common.
Selection of footwear is also important to prevent slip and falls. Employees who must walk on wet or contaminated surfaces need to wear slip-resistant shoes. Lighting is key as well, especially for older workers. More generally, employers need to keep their premises maintained, including repairing stairs and railings, clearing clutter from areas with foot traffic, and in the winter, being mindful of ice and snow that may be tracked in by employees.
Know your legal rights if you're hurt in a fall on the job
Under Ohio law, employees who are hurt on the job get workers' compensation, period. Workers' comp is a no-fault system, so it doesn't matter whether you fell because of a hazard that your employer should have addressed or you just tripped over your own feet. As long as you were injured in the course and scope of your employment, workers' compensation should pay for your medical expenses, a percentage of your lost wages if you can't work due to the injury, and other benefits for permanent, disabling injuries.
The tradeoff is that you can't file a personal injury claim against your employer if you're hurt on the job. However, many slip, trip and falls at work involve third-party liability. For example, if your employer rents space from another business, the business that owns or manages the premises may be liable (legally responsible) for your injuries.
The same is true if you were hurt at an off-site meeting or on a client's or customer's premises, tripped on an extension cord being used by a vendor, or slipped on a spill that a third-party service was responsible for cleaning up. In situations like these, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against that third party and pursue damages not covered by workers' compensation, such as pain and suffering.
That's why it's critical that you speak with an experienced work injury attorney if you're injured in a slip and fall at work. We will listen to your story and explain all your legal rights and options under Ohio law. Contact Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A. today for a free consultation.