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4 critical facts about construction fall accidents

You watch a co-worker fall on a construction site. It's terrifying, and it's not even that far of a fall. It all happens so quickly. Everything is fine, he's grinning and talking about the next step in the job, and then he's gone.

For a gut-wrenching moment, you don't know if he's alive or not. You constantly replay the events in your mind to see if you could have done anything. Meanwhile, emergency crews rush him to the hospital. He survives, but his injuries are serious.

Now, you're wondering what contributes to falls and what you can do to prevent them. You don't want to find yourself in that hospital bed. Below are four critical facts to keep in mind.

1. Most falls are under 30 feet.

Everyone worries about falling from a high-rise project, with hundreds of feet below. The reality, though, is that most falls are relatively short. One study put a full 85 percent of them at 30 feet or less.

That's certainly plenty of distance for the fall to be deadly or result in serious injuries. However, people are so worried about higher falls that they may overlook the need for safe working conditions at lower heights. Since this is where the vast majority of falls occur, that means the danger is very real.

2. Most workers don't use fall protection.

Fall protection gear does exist, but many workers -- the majority in the 9,141 fall accidents reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and examined in the study -- don't use it. Gear that could have saved lives is sitting off to the side or not at the job site at all.

The reasons vary. Sometimes, employers neglect to provide gear. Others provide it, but not the training needed to use it. Some workers have it, but they think it slows them down and don't want to wear it. This is especially true when employers are pushing them to work faster and delays aren't tolerated.

3. Low-budget contractors see the most danger.

The study found that the biggest danger was to workers on low-budget jobs, whether they were commercial building projects or residential housing projects. These workers were typically specialty trade contractors.

4. Accidents cost billions.

When looking at injuries in construction all over the United States, you can't ignore the cost. Many experts put it in the billions. While some employers don't like fall protection gear because it's an added expense and reduces production, this shows that it saves money in the long run.

These are just four facts of many from the study, but they really illustrate the issues you're facing in the construction industry. If you fall or get hurt in any other fashion on the job, you must know how to seek compensation for these incredibly high costs.

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