How Dangerous are Falls from Lower Heights?
April 1, 2021
It is well known that roofers, construction workers, and other employees who perform tasks at high heights risk serious personal injuries from falling. However, falls from lower heights can be extremely dangerous as well, resulting in painful medical conditions that may prevent workers from earning a living in their chosen profession. Defective or unsafe stairways, platforms, or ladders often cause falls from lower heights.
Falls from heights as low as five feet are dangerous as a result of a person’s reaction time and the force of gravity. The average person’s reaction time is less than one second. In that amount of time, an individual will have fallen four feet. When people fall, gravity pulls them down while their speed and impact force increase. For example, a worker who weighs 200 pounds will hit the ground with nearly 10,000 pounds of force when falling from a height of six feet. It is difficult, if not impossible, for people in that situation to catch themselves fast enough to prevent a fall.
According to a study by the University of Tennessee Medical Center, the contact surface on which a person falls has a significant effect on the seriousness of injury and may have a greater impact than the height of the fall. Victims who strike concrete, asphalt, or other hard surfaces suffer greater injury than those who hit grass or soft surfaces.
What Types of Injuries Result from Falls from Lower Heights?
Falls are the second leading cause of both spinal injuries and brain injuries.
The types of injuries that may result from falls from lower height include hip fractures, arm and leg fractures, lumbar or lower back injuries, neck injuries, and brain damage. Thoracic injuries, including trauma to the mid and upper back, are more common in higher falls, as are rib fractures and lung damage. Complications from specific types of fall-related injuries include the following:
- Brain injuries. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most serious types of injuries that may result from a fall. TBI can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding, and other physical damage to the brain. These injuries can result in long-term complications, including seizures, infections, cognitive impairment, headaches, depression, and death.
- Hip fractures. When hip fractures force patients to be immobile for a long time, complications may include blood clots, pneumonia, infections, and loss of muscle mass.
- Lower back/lumbar injuries. The lumbar region of the back supports much of a person’s upper body weight. Lumbar injuries can be debilitating, causing loss of movement, numbness, loss of bladder and bowel control, weakness, and extreme pain.
- Leg and arm injuries. Arm and leg fractures can result in serious complications, particularly if the limb is crushed and the bone is splintered. These complications may include bone infection, muscle or nerve damage, and compartment syndrome, which causes pain, swelling, and muscle disability.
The consequences of these types of injuries may be long term. Often, spinal injuries and complicated fractures require multiple surgeries and hospital stays. Even when patients recover enough to go home, they may experience lasting disability or physical impairment that prevents them from working full time in their chosen profession.
What Causes Falls from Lower Heights?
Falls from lower heights may be caused by the misuse of ladders or by defective ladders, platforms, or stairs. More than 8,000 people are injured each year by falls from a ladder, and more than 50 of these falls are fatal. Most ladder fatalities involve falls from heights of 10 feet or less. Tragically, many falls from lower heights can easily be prevented by proper maintenance or installation of platforms with standard safety features. Failure to provide standard safety features on products or failure to address unsafe conditions on a premises maybe result in legal liability for property and business owners. . The following cases were handled by Galfand Berger LLP:
Machine operator falls from four-foot platform that lacked a skid-resistant surface. A 48-year-old worker was required to check the alignment of the forming station on a spiral weld machine. The forming station was supported by two elevated platforms. To accomplish his assigned task, the worker had to step over a pipe that was in operation between the two platforms. While attempting this, he slipped and fell down four feet, injuring his back and leg. The injury caused him to miss work for seven months, and, owing to ongoing pain, he was unable to return to work full time. Galfand Berger LLP was able to prove that the spiral welding machine was defectively designed because the platform was inherently slippery. This, combined with inadequate space for the machine operator, created a dangerous condition. The accident could have been prevented by the installation of open web grating or skid-resistant traction on the platform. Galfand Berger LLP obtain a settlement of $1 million for the injured worker.
Include this case, too: https://www.galfandberger.com/verdicts/products-liability/37-2/
Truck driver falls four feet onto cement when steps collapse. A 43-year-old long-haul truck driver was picking up a load of paper at a warehouse. As he descended the wooden steps of the loading dock to check on the load in his trailer, the steps collapsed and he fell four feet, striking his head, neck, and back on the cement floor. As a result of his injuries, he could not work for three years and was never able to return to his former job as a long-haul driver. After a thorough investigation, Galfand Berger LLP was able to demonstrate that the steps were not properly secured to the cement floor, nor were they securely fixed to the loading dock. The premises owner was negligent in allowing this dangerous condition to exist and therefore was found liable for damages. The case settled for $565,000 before trial.
Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Build Strong Cases for Clients Injured in Falls
The Philadelphia premises liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are experienced in building a strong case for clients seriously injured in falls, even when the fall occurs at a lower height. If you were injured in a fall, contact our office as soon as possible. We have the resources to initiate a thorough investigation to protect your rights and ensure that the responsible party answers for your injuries. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.