When it comes to safety equipment, nothing is more important for those who work at heights than fall protection. Some safety systems focus on reducing the chances of a fall — using railings, for instance, or making sure ladders are tall enough — while some equipment focuses on protecting the worker in the event of a fall. The main example for this second type of system is a roped harness or a tether tying a worker to a roof.

However, workers do not always use fall protection, and it can lead to some serious injuries and fatalities. Why do they neglect to use it?

One reason is time. If a worker knows it will take 10 minutes to go get a harness, rig a rope and clip in, but he or she just has a five-minute job to do on a roof, the worker may just try to do it without protection. This also happens for very brief jobs. If a worker just needs to spend a few seconds retrieving a tool, are they going to do all of that rigging first?

Another reason is pressure from an employer. Maybe the employee is paid by the hour and would be happy to spend time setting up fall protection, but a boss or a supervisor acts like it’s an unnecessary waste of time. The worker, just thinking about keeping their job, may feel like they need to do it unsafely. In fact, in some cases, employers will neglect to give workers fall protection equipment at all, or they’ll neglect to train the workers in how to use it safely.

This is a complex issue, but one thing is for sure: Injured workers must know what rights they have.