Workplace falls are one of the major hazards facing construction workers. They lead to a high number of fatalities every year and both workers and employers need to plan ahead to prevent them.

The first step is to use guardrails on scaffolding systems, walkways, raised platforms and anywhere else that workers have to operate at heights. Experts note that other types of fall protection — like a rope and harness — can protect a worker if a fall occurs, but only guardrails stop the event from happening in the first place.

It’s also important for workers to be familiar with the site and identify all the potential fall risks and hazards. Knowledge goes a long way toward preventing accidents. Supervisors must understand that new workers who come on the job may naturally lack some familiarity and experience with that specific site that other workers already have. This can increase the risk.

Furthermore, workers need to know how to use equipment like ladders and scaffolding systems safely. For instance, if the scaffolding is left out overnight and is covered in mud, water or ice, they should not use it before cleaning it off. If they need to reach higher while working on a scaffolding, they should not do it by putting ladders, boxes or anything else on the raised surface. Any sort of shortcut can make a fall far more likely than it would be otherwise.

Falls will still happen, even when workers are aware of the risks and attempt to plan ahead. Those who get hurt may need to know if they have a right to compensation.