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Safety harnesses don't always keep you safe

A member of the cleaning crew who was preparing an O'Hara Township water tower for painting managed to survive a fall of 35-40 feet directly into the tank when his scaffolding failed. Although the crew member was wearing a safety harness, it's unclear where it was anchored—and it certainly didn't seem to do much to stop his fall.

With injuries to his right arm and back, the crew member can probably expect a lengthy recovery time while he heals. Workplace falls actually cost billions of dollars worth of disabling injuries and account for 15 percent of all accidental deaths.

Workers' compensation benefits are designed to compensate you or your family if you're hurt or killed in a workplace accident. An attorney can help you through the process if you run into difficulties with your claim, but perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that the long-term consequences of even a short fall can be significant.

Just as rescuers on the scene in O'Hara Township weren't really able to asses the seriousness of the crewman's injuries, you may not be in a position to know how severe your own injuries are for a while either.

At best, a fall can leave you with soft-tissue injuries like bruises and pulled ligaments in your back, hands, and knees, but they often cause far more serious damage. Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, which may not fully show their symptoms for several months.

Complex fractures of arms, legs, shoulders, hips, and backs are common and take time to heal—and you may find that you're left with unexpected nerve damage as a result. Chronic pain can also become a factor for victims of falls, which can then lead to problems with opiate addictions.

If you've been the victim of a workplace fall, don't rush to agree to any settlement terms with workers' comp. You don't want to sign away your rights to further compensation only to find out, months later, that you're still struggling with nerve damage in your hands or feet, limited mobility in your arms and legs, or some other ongoing issue that won't easily resolve.

Source: Triblive.com, "Worker escapes with injuries in 40-foot fall into empty O'Hara water tank," Andrew Erickson and Mary Ann Thomas, Nov. 14, 2016

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