The importance of fall protection in the workplace

Minnesota workers could be putting themselves at risk if they do jobs without the necessary training and safety equipment. One 33-year-old man was killed when he fell 7 feet from a pallet that had been raised by a forklift onto a concrete floor. At the warehouse where he worked, using the forklift and a pallet in this way was common practice.

The pallet and forklift were being used to lift employees up to high shelves where they could reach inventory, but this was not the way it was supposed to be used. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the accident and found that it was caused by a lack of adequate training and failing to provide employees with a safe system for reaching high shelves.

Workers should not stand on pallets or be lifted on them. Employers need to provide them with the correct type of equipment. One type is the manufactured personnel platform including fall protection such as a guardrail. Another is an industrial truck class known as high-lift order pickers. These are designed to lift the operator and include fall arrest equipment. In areas where forklifts are used, workers need to be trained on their operation and safety.

Workers' compensation is designed to financially protect workers and their families after a worker is injured. Most workers who become ill as a result of exposure to a hazard at work or who are injured in a workplace injury are eligible for workers' compensation. An employer might not know whether an employee is eligible or may mislead an employee regarding eligibility, but employers are not supposed to retaliate against an employee who applies for workers' compensation. An attorney can often help a person apply for benefits and may assist a worker with an appeal if the claim is denied.

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