July 18, 2013
By Ellis Brasch
Back in 1991, I wrote a comprehensive report on work-related falls in Oregon titled "Respecting Gravity." The report (based on workers' compensation data from 1985 to 1988) had two objectives: to describe how Oregon workers across all major industries were injured in falls from elevation and to determine how far they fell.
Not long ago, one of my co-workers had the task of reviewing a similar, but smaller, dataset (workers in residential building construction injured in falls from 2008 to 2012) to determine how far they fell.
In my 1991 report, the mean fall distance for workers in residential building construction was nine feet, the maximum distance was 19 feet, and the minimum distance was three feet. Perhaps it's just coincidence, but the mean fall distance for residential building construction workers in my co-worker's dataset (summarized in the table below) is the same as the mean fall distance for residential building construction workers in my dataset: nine feet.
It's not a coincidence, however, that falls from ladders injure more residential building construction workers than any other type of fall. That's always been the case. Falls from ladders accounted for the largest proportion of falls from elevation from 1985 to 1988 – just as they do today.
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But remember: the information in this newsletter is intended to highlight safe work practices, but it does not replace Oregon OSHA workplace safety and health rules.
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