FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Oct. 22, 2018) - It may come as a surprise that the third-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death is falls. In 2015, nearly 33,381 people died in falls at home and at work; and for working adults, depending on the industry, falls can be the leading cause of death.

Hazards in the workplace

In 2014, 660 workers died in falls from a higher level, and 49,210 were injured badly enough to require days off of work. A worker doesn't have fall from a high level to suffer fatal injuries. While half of all fatal falls in 2014 occurred from 20 feet or lower, 12 percent were from less than 6 feet, according to the National Safety Council's Injury Facts 2017, the go-to source for injury and death statistics and their related cost to the workplace.

Construction workers are most at risk for fatal falls from height - more than seven times the rate of other industries. But falls can happen anywhere, even at a desk job. National Safety Council data for 2014 includes falls from height and falls on the same level, by industry:

• Construction: 22,330 injuries, 359 deaths

• Manufacturing: 23,290 injuries, 49 deaths

• Wholesale trade: 14,360 injuries, 30 deaths

• Retail trade: 29,530 injuries, 34 deaths

• Transportation and Warehousing: 23,780 injuries, 43 deaths

• Professional and business services: 23,140 injuries, 94 deaths

• Education and health services: 51,150 injuries, 21 deaths

• Government: 69,530 injuries, 41 deaths

Falls are 100 percent preventable

Whether working from a ladder, roof or scaffolding, it's important to plan ahead, assess the risk and use the right equipment. First, determine if working from a height is absolutely necessary or if there is another way to do the task safely.

• Discuss the task with co-workers and determine what safety equipment is needed.

• Make sure you are properly trained on how to use the equipment.

• Scan the work area for potential hazards before starting the job.

• Make sure you have level ground to set up the equipment.

• If working outside, check the weather forecast; never work in inclement weather.

• Use the correct tool for the job and use it as intended.

• Ensure stepladders have a locking device to hold the front and back open.

• Always keep two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand, on the ladder.

• Place the ladder on a solid surface and never lean it against an unstable surface.

• A straight or extension ladder should be 1 foot away from the surface it rests on for every 4 feet of height and extend at least 3 feet over the top edge.

• Securely fasten straight and extension ladders to an upper support.

• Wear slip-resistant shoes and don't stand higher than the third rung from the top.

• Don't lean or reach while on a ladder and have someone support the bottom.

• Never use old or damaged equipment; check thoroughly before use.

Millions of people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries every year. A fall can end in death or disability in a split second, but with a few simple precautions, you'll be sure stay safe at work.