IT HAPPENS LIKE clockwork. Fall arrives — as it did this year on Saturday, Sept. 22 — National Falls Prevention Awareness Day is held, and National Fall Prevention Awareness Week begins. We’re presuming it was planned this way to make the safety observances easier to remember.
While falls can be dangerous — fatal even — for people of any age, National Falls Prevention Awareness Day and the awareness week (through Sept. 28 this year) were conceived with older Americans in mind. The 10th annual awareness day, sponsored by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), came with a report that falls are:
• The leading cause of injury death for older Americans,
• The leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits for older adults,
• The major cause of hip fractures, and
• Responsible for more than half of all fatal head injuries.
This year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Day theme, “Take a Stand to Prevent Falls,” sought to unite professionals, older adults, caregivers, and family members to play an ongoing part in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population. More than 70 national organizations, professional associations, and federal agencies comprise the Falls Free Initiative.
Falls require a major focus because they threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs. The Injury Center for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitors falls, fall-related injuries, and associated costs. The center reports that:
• One-fourth of Americans age 65 and older fall each year.
• Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
• Falls result in more than 2.8 million injuries treated in emergency departments annually, including more than 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,700 deaths.
• Adjusted for inflation, the annual direct medical costs for fall injuries are $31 billion. Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.
• By 2020, the annual direct and indirect cost of fall injuries is expected to reach $67.7 billion.
Several organizations offer online resources about fall-related injuries and how to prevent them, but the leaders are the NCOA (visit here) and the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence (visit http://stopfalls.org/).
At the occupational level, slips and trips and falling from heights are among the leading causes of worker injuries and deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, OSHA reports, the leading causes of private-sector worker deaths (excluding highway collisions) in the construction industry were falls, accounting for 384 out of 991 total deaths in construction in 2016 (38.7 percent). In the top-10 list of most frequently cited OSHA standards, fall protection-construction came in at No. 1, scaffolding-general requirements-construction was No. 3, ladders-construction was No. 6, and fall protection-training requirements was No. 9.
Fall prevention and fall protection are important topics in many of the safety training courses offered by Safety Solutions & Supply. Two of those OSHA-certified courses have fall protection as a primary focus — Fall Protection General Application Training and Fall Protection Competent Person Training.
Whether you’re at work or at home or elsewhere on private time, and whether you’re young or old or somewhere in between, watch your step and watch those heights. Don’t become a CDC or OSHA statistic about fall-related injuries.
To learn more about Safety Solutions & Supply — a complete provider of safety training, services, consultation, and gear — visit our website at http://solutionsinsafety.com/ or call toll-free at 1-866-537-2262.