Living on the Edge – The world of workplace slips, trips and falls.

July 22, 2015 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

Authored by Roselyn Moore, Legal Assistant

Some people come from long lines of farmers, others have law enforcement families and still more are proud army brats. I come from a construction family. My father and all five of my brothers are in the construction trade. Where other families might pull out family recipes or tell tales over family photographs, it is not uncommon during any of my family gatherings for the table to be cleared so that blue prints can be spread, reviewed and throughly discussed. Construction families do have something all too in common with cop families though-those unexpected phone calls. Loved ones of police officers and firemen have a reputation of living within earshot of the phone, nerves perpetually on edge, anticipating yet dreading a call. Yet, I would argue that the notoriously roughshod construction industry brings with it its own share of phone calls. Off the top of my head I can give you a laundry list of my brothers’ injuries. In falls at construction sites alone, one brother broke both arms, one had barbed wire rip through his leg (on two separate occasions) and one nearly lost his thumb when trying to catch himself.

In fact, construction safety was such a part of my growing up that when I was only nine years old, I was drawing safety pictures like the one below for my father’s construction company, warning about the hazards of not properly using guard rails.

Even if you do not work for a construction company, the dangers of workplace injuries are very real and very frightening. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 4,585 workplace fatalities in 2013, of which 724 cases were from falls, slips and trips (Source). The same statistics from 2009 show that 212,760 workers were seriously injured by falls to the same or lower level (Source).

As I am sure you know, a fall can occur in any work environment. While most fall-related fatalities continue to occur in the construction fields, the highest frequency of nonfatal fall injuries are associated with health services and retail industries.

While there are federal regulations and industry standards to guard against workplace injuries such as falls, unsafe practices, cultures of unsafe work environments and faulty equipment all too often come into play.

So what are you to do if you have been injured at work? First and foremost, get the proper medical care. If you are employed and were injured at work, you may very well qualify by law for workers’ compensation to compensate you for your medical expenses and wage loss. You should contact a workers’ compensation attorney to find out.

There is another side to workplace injuries and that is where Pickett Dummigan LLP comes in. What if there was more to your injury than a simple accident? Perhaps you fell at work on a staircase that was was poorly lit and not built up to code? Or maybe you were using a piece of equipment which was known to be hazardous and even recalled when you were injured? Or you could have fallen off a roof or scaffolding like in my drawing. In instances like these, it would be worth your while to contact our attorneys so we can investigate on your behalf. For example, we currently represent an individual who was performing his normal daily tasks as a framer, when he leaned against the guard rail that was there to protect him and it unexpectedly gave way, causing him fall three stories to the ground. While he was very fortunate not to have died, that individual has suffered intense pain and distress due to the fall and will never again be the same. Pickett Dummigan has not given up on this individual and fought on his behalf first through the circuit court, then the appeals court and now, as he continues with his 8th year of litigation, entering into the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon.

This is just one of the numerous workplace safety cases that Pickett Dummigan is representing and one of the many reasons I love working here.

What can you do to avoid falling at work?

You can reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:

  • taking your time and paying attention to where you are going
  • adjusting your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing
  • walking with the feet pointed slightly outward
  • making wide turns at corners

You can reduce the risk of tripping by:

  • keeping walking areas clear from clutter or obstructions
  • keeping flooring in good condition
  • always using installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks
  • using a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light
  • ensuring that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.