To be clear, workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance. That means it doesn’t matter if the employee did something dumb and hurt himself, or the employer was careless and a worker got hurt—either way, the worker's injuries should be covered and he or she cannot sue his employer for damages. However, if the employer violated a specific safety standard, and a worker was hurt, the injured worker could be eligible for more compensation under Ohio’s Violation of Specific Safety Requirements (VSSR) code. Often, these safety violations involve falls.
For the thirteenth year in a row, lack of fall protection was the number-one safety violation cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you were injured in a fall because a fall protection safety standard was violated by your employer, you could be owed more compensation.
What Are Workplace Fall Protection Safety Standards?
OSHA is a federal agency that sets and enforces worker safety standards for private-sector employers across the country. While they might cite and fine an Ohio company for a safety violation, they do not compensate workers for injuries. To be eligible for a VSSR claim, the employer must have violated a safety regulation in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC). The ORC’s standards are like OSHA’s.
According to OSHA, the most common violations of fall protection safety regulations involve the following, from most to least common:
- Hazard communication. Failing to provide information and training to employees when a potential fall hazard exists in a work area is the most common violation of OSHA standards. This could include not warning employees through verbal communication or signage about a hole, broken railing, slipping hazard, spill, or other hazard that could cause a fall.
- Ladders. Ladders and stepstools are used in many workplaces, and OSHA has specific standards for the purpose, condition, placement, and security of ladders, whether they are temporary or fixed in place. Detailed standards for spacing of rungs, coating material, training, usage, and much more are provided by OSHA.
- Scaffolding. In the construction industry, scaffolding accidents are the most common cause of falls from heights. Across all industries, they also pose the potential for falls, particularly when specific safety standards about how they are built and who uses them are violated.
- Fall protection training. Many workplace accidents arise from an employer’s failure to provide adequate fall protection training for all workers who might be exposed to fall hazards. This includes training in the correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling, and inspecting fall protection systems.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). Failing to provide harnesses, tethers, hard hats, and other PPE for fall prevention that are in good condition and fit correctly is another common OSHA violation that can lead to a fall and catastrophic injury.
If you work in a job that requires you to climb ladders, stand on scaffolding, or encounter slipping and tripping hazards, OSHA standards are a good place to start investigating whether you might have a VSSR claim in Ohio.
Ohio Jobs That Require Working From Heights
Working from heights is common in a lot of jobs, and workers should be able to rely on their employer to provide adequate safety measures. The following are jobs that require working at heights and the specific fall protection measures recommended by OSHA for each.
Construction workers often work on scaffolding, roofs, or elevated platforms. OSHA recommends the use of guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) such as harnesses and lanyards to prevent falls. Safety training is important to ensure the proper use of fall protection equipment.
Roofers often operate at considerable heights. OSHA advises the installation of guardrails or personal fall arrest systems. Roof brackets and safety nets can also mitigate the risk of falls. Additionally, ensuring proper training on roof safety and equipment usage is essential.
Window washers working on high-rise buildings should use boatswain's chairs or scaffolding systems equipped with guardrails. PFAS, such as harnesses and descent control devices, are essential for vertical descent. Regular equipment inspections and adherence to industry-specific safety guidelines are important.
Tree Trimmers and Arborists
Landscapers and tree trimmers should use tree-climbing saddles and lanyards. Additionally, aerial lifts or bucket trucks equipped with guardrails and fall arrest systems can provide a secure working platform. Regular equipment inspections and adherence to ANSI safety standards are critical.
If you are injured in an on-the-job fall, you will be eligible for workers’ comp. Give our office a call to find out if you might also have a VSSR claim for more compensation.