Learning the Hard Way

Published On: May 23, 2022By Categories: Editor's Note, Editor’s Note, Safety

By Thad Plumley

The weather was wonderful, and my wife and I decided to take a hike at a trail by a river not far from our home.

As someone who lives in a suburb of a city, it’s always great to get back to nature; to see it, hear it, and smell it. That is until you’re suddenly airborne.

As I was walking, one of my boots hit a small, downed tree stump and I was off to the races. I didn’t fall, but I stumbled quite a bit, my right ankle turned, and I was sore the rest of the day.

Perhaps I am better suited for the world of concrete and paved paths after all.

I didn’t think of it at the time, but I eventually recalled that I have written regularly about the dangers of slips, trips, and falls.

Slip, trips, and falls are the most cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation every year. I’m not exaggerating. It was first for the 11th consecutive year last year, and more than doubled the violation that finished in second place. It is in no danger of losing its dubious crown.

It is imperative that you are constantly reminding your crew about practicing safe habits relating to fall protection.

Incredibly, the violation in third place in 2021 related to ladders, fourth was scaffolding, and seventh was fall protection: training requirements—meaning four of the top 10 violations last year related to falling down.

As I was nursing my ankle after my hike, I recalled that I once asked in an Editor’s Note how these types of accidents can fill up a top 10 list every year. After all, I wrote, every tailgate talk, safety book, state show, and national convention has addressed the hazards of slips, trips, and falls.

Let me humbly bow and say I now know why.

We’re human, which means we’re far from perfect, and life constantly gets in our way. And when that happens, down we go. Or in my case, you stumble like a college kid at 2 a.m. on a Friday night.

So let me remind you while it may seem redundant and may even seem boring, it is imperative that you are constantly reminding your crew about practicing safe habits relating to fall protection.

Cover the importance of evaluating a jobsite for unsafe or slippery conditions. When arriving at the site, detail potential tripping hazards and determine proper pathways and regular routes that must be used.

Discuss using handrails, ramps, carrying heavy loads, and working from elevated and higher-up positions. There’s a reason ladders and scaffolding were on the list. Remind everyone that these types of falls often lead to the most serious accidents.

Covering these topics on a regular basis will certainly not eliminate all the slips, trips, and falls in our industry, but we have to try.

And take it from me, it is certainly better than ending a day at home with ice on your ankle.

Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.

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