When most of us think about falling, it’s a slip on the ice that jars us for a moment or a trip and stumble that comes to mind. However, serious falls are more common than you may think. In one recent year, 59% of unintentional injury hospital stays were attributable to falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in five falls results in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury. And, it is estimated that 95% of all hip fractures are caused by falls.
A significant percentage of those hospitalized after falls are senior citizens. But, people of any age can be seriously injured or killed in a fall, and these falls can happen anywhere.
Nursing Home Falls
The elderly are especially susceptible to falls requiring hospitalization, and those residing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are no exception. Data provided by the state of Massachusetts indicates that 18% of fatal falls among the elderly happen in nursing homes.
Often, these falls are the result of neglect, including inadequate fall prevention planning, poor staff training, lax supervision of residents, failure to use bed rails and other protective equipment, and failure to assist elderly or disabled patients in transitions such as getting in and out of bed.
The state data suggests that those with severe cognitive impairment, those suffering from Huntington’s disease, those who have experienced a previous fall after admission to the facility, and those who exhibit wandering behavior are most likely to be injured in a nursing home fall.
Falls are one of the most common causes of workplace fatalities. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), hundreds of workers are killed each year in falls to a lower level. Nearly 50,000 others suffer injuries serious enough to result in lost work days. And, while falls to a lower level are more dangerous for obvious reasons, same-level falls can also result in serious injury or death. In 2016, 134 U.S. workers were killed in same-level workplace falls.
Fatal falls are especially prevalent in the construction industry, where work often takes place above ground on semi-finished levels or temporary scaffolding. The manufacturing sector takes second place for fall-related fatalities. But, falls happen in virtually every industry, and those posting the highest fall-related injury rates may surprise you. In 2016, there were more than 43,000 fall-related injuries in education and healthcare services, and another 22,000 in the professional and business services sector.
The NSC says workplace falls are 100% preventable. Unfortunately, not all employers take appropriate fall protection measures. In fact, fall protection issues are one of the most common violations cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Other Falling Risks
Many injury-causing and fatal falls happen in nursing homes and on the job, and the elderly are disproportionately at risk. But, of course, a fall can happen anywhere. Some other common fall-related injuries stem from:
- Slipping on snow or ice that hasn’t been cleared or has been negligently cleared
- Slipping on a wet surface, such as the area adjacent to a swimming pool or a store floor where a liquid has been spilled
- Tripping over debris, equipment, toys, or unexpected items left in an area where people walk
- Tripping over a broken stair, uneven concrete, or unmarked change in elevation
To protect against falls:
- Use safety equipment such as harnesses and rails on the job
- Take the same care in walking as you would in driving, and pay attention to your path, not your phone or some other distraction
- Wear shoes appropriate to the terrain
- Take special care in walking on icy sidewalks, or avoid them altogether
- Ensure that your elderly loved ones have appropriate shoes and, if needed, a cane or walker
If you are injured in a fall, or you have lost a loved one to a fall, you may be entitled to compensation. The type of claim you may have and the compensation available will vary depending on where the fall took place, whether someone else’s negligence contributed to the fall, the extent of the injuries, and other factors. An experienced injury attorney like Kevin J. Broderick can assess your case and advise you of your rights and options.