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On your feet

Jun 5, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Falls at work are a major problem, but usually they are preventable

When the topic is workplace safety, the average person probably thinks about industrial chemical spills, major equipment malfunctions, explosions and the like.

Falling at work probably doesn't leap to mind, but it ought to. Wyoming's Department of Workforce Services, which is the state's branch of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, notes that fall prevention is top priority for the agency, with fall hazards ranking among the 10 most-cited safety violations at workplaces.

And if it's a priority for OSHA, then it had better be a priority for your office or shop.

This week is designated across the U.S. as National Fall Prevention Stand-Down. Regulators encourage employers to talk to workers about fall hazards "and the need to reinforce the importance of fall prevention to prevent injuries caused by falls from elevation."

Falls from elevation? That's a term which brings to mind ladders, cranes and catwalks, but even a fall from a bottom step or a pallet being used as a temporary step stool can multiply the risk -- and injury -- from a fall.

Joan Evans is the director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services. She reminds Wyoming that falls at work continue to be a leading cause of injuries in the state.

OSHA isn't the favorite agency of any business, but its inspectors are knowledgeable and always willing to work with employers and workers on prevention rather than enforcement -- although they are ready to do the latter if preventable workplace safety problems are not addressed.

Anyone who has ever had an OSHA visit says the same thing: I didn't know there was a problem. Wyoming has put more money in recent years toward safer workplaces. Part of the funding is intended to give supervisors help in improving workplace safety before a violation occurs. That's a lot better than afterward.

Much of the time all that's required is proper labeling and signage to warn workers of a hazard, or some similar step that doesn't involve major retooling or renovation of a shop or office.

These are busy people, but if you ask for help you can get it. To request services or receive more information, call 777-7786 or visit wyomingworkforce.org.

If ever the old phrase "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies, it's in the arena of workplace safety. Use the people at Wyoming DWS OSHA sooner, and you won't have to deal with them later.

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