Fall Protection Systems & Return on Investment
When anyone managing a building hears any discussion about fall protection, the first thing that pops into their mind is the cost. This is understandable. The goal of any company is to make money, not to spend it. But, all businesses have unavoidable costs (i.e. overhead) that help them operate smoothly. Unfortunately, the costs associated with running industrial or construction companies are going to be higher than the costs associated with strictly running an office. If you have employees who need to access heights above 4 to 6 feet (depending upon your industry) in order to do their job, you need to install a fall protection system as per OSHA and ANSI requirements.
In an effort to save money, there are many industrial and construction companies that avoid installing a fall protection system in the workplace because they feel that a fall protection system is too expensive. This is not a wise decision for two reasons: (1) Employees can be very seriously injured (or killed) if they fall from a height; (2) The costs associated with an effective fall protection system are significantly lower than all of the costs associated with an employee falling in the workplace.
For example, let’s say that you have 50 feet of facility space where one worker will need protection at any given time, like a loading dock where truck drivers are tarping their materials throughout the day. The potential price range for the system and components could be anywhere from $1,800 to $40,000*—depending upon your needs at the facility. There will be some additional costs associated with assessments, installation, program development, and employee training. However, the various costs associated with those elements will depend upon the needs of the facility.
*Note: Systems that require more track will average at a higher price due to an increase in material costs.
Now, that cost encapsulates everything you need to keep your employees safer at height in the workplace. There may be a few annual purchases (like a new harness or lanyard), but for the most part, the maintenance costs for the system should be very minimal.
If you have an employee who falls from a dangerous height in the workplace, and you did not have an appropriate fall protection system in place, your company will be facing a number of different charges and fines.
If you have a fall protection system in place, but it isn’t the right type of system for the application, you could be charged with a “serious violation. OSHA defines a “Serious Violation” as, “A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.” This can cost a company up to $7,000 for each violation that OSHA finds during an investigation.
Meanwhile, if an employer knows that there is a height hazard and there is no fall protection, OSHA can charge that employer with “Willful Violation.” OSHA defines a “Willful Violation” as, “A violation that the employer knowingly commits or commits with plain indifference to the law. The employer either knows that what he or she is doing constitutes a violation, or is aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to eliminate it.” This type of citation can cost anywhere from $70,000 to $500,000 (along with time in prison) for a criminal conviction. Don’t be a willful violator—it puts your employees in danger; it’s expensive; and it can land you in jail.
If your employee gets injured from their fall, the company will probably need to pay for medical expenses and worker’s compensation. In 2013, the cost of worker’s compensation in the United States averaged out to $29.23 per hour. So, if your company is paying that rate for an average 4 hour work week, the following could be the payments you’re facing (before taxes):
- 3 months averages out to $15,199.60.
- 6 months averages out to $30,399.20.
- 1 year averages out to $60, 798.40.
In the highly unfortunate event that an employee dies due to a fall in the workplace, your company would be responsible for coronary and mortuary expenses which reach an average cost of $7,045 (according to a survey taken in 2012).
Beyond all of the costs mentioned above, there are other hidden costs that will vary depending upon your company and its average earnings/overhead costs. The other ways that a workplace fall can influence a company’s financial situation are the following:
- Administrative Costs
- Litigation/Settlement Expenses
- Insurance Cost Modifications
- Direct/Indirect Lost Work Hours at the Time of the Accident
- Lost Work Hours Due to Accident Investigation Procedures and Processes
When comparing the general costs of a fall protection system to the expenses associated with a workplace fall, it’s clear that the fall protection system is the cheaper option. Yes, there are initial costs. But no, it is not as expensive as having a worker fall.
Until the next time, stay safe up there!
- Five Reasons People Don't Use Fall Protection
- The Cost of a Poor Safety Program
- Common Fall Protection Equipment Misuses and How to Address Them
- Benefits of Dual Track Rigid Rail Systems
- Emphasizing Workplace Safety Increases, Not Decreases, Your Productivity