Slips, trips, and falls are frequent causes of incidents both on and off the job. According to OSHA, slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry incidents and result in back injuries, strains and sprains, contusions, and fractures. Additionally, they cause 15% of all incidental deaths and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.
What Causes Slips, Trips and Falls?
A slip occurs when there is too little traction or friction between the shoe and walking surface. A trip occurs when a person’s foot contacts an object or drops to a lower level unexpectedly, causing them to be thrown off-balance. A fall occurs when a person is too far-off balance. People slip on water or oil spills; they trip over small objects and electrical cords; and they fall off ladders, chairs, or down stairways.
There are many situations that can cause slips, trips, and falls and they can be prevented, but only if everyone does his/her part. First, always be alert to potential hazards in unfamiliar surroundings. Spot-check walkways and work areas to be sure that no trip or slip hazards exist. Even more importantly, when you find a fall hazard, make sure that something is done to correct it. The majority of slips, trips, and falls at work are caused by obvious hazards, most of which could have been easily corrected. Water and oil spills, small objects on the floor, electrical cords, and objects projecting out into walkways will eventually trip someone, so take a moment to eliminate these obvious hazards.
Tips for Avoiding Slips, Trips and Falls
- Always practice good housekeeping. Don’t leave loose objects on walking working surfaces.
- Never leave water or oil spills unattended. If they can’t be cleaned up immediately, set up a barrier so that people know about the hazard.
- Never allow an object to sit on stairways or ramps. Cartons, boxes, and other obstacles are especially dangerous here.
- Always use a ladder or stepstool. Never stand on a chair, desk, shelf, crate, box, or any other unstable items to reach something. If you must routinely reach items in high locations, purchase a ladder or stepstool to allow it to be done safely. Before each use, every ladder and stepstool should be inspected to make sure safety feet are present and there are no damages. Ladder safety training is required if you must use a ladder or for stepstools greater than 32 inches.
- Report or repair loose or damaged handrails, stairway treads, mats, and walkway runners. Sometimes even a small worn spot can cause someone to trip or fall.
- Wear proper footwear. Wear footwear that is appropriate for the conditions inside and outside.
- On smooth or wet surfaces, always wear shoes with slip resistant soles.
- Ensure proper lighting. Report burned out lights, as well as walkways and work areas that are too dark.
- When walking, don’t carry loads that block your vision. If you can’t see where you are going, a trip and fall is inevitable.
- Post signs to warn of dangerous areas. For example, paint edges where elevation changes occur with yellow paint to alert employees to the change in elevation.
- Use hand or safety rails on stairways. It’s the best way to keep your balance.
- Report any floor openings that are not protected. These openings can cause very serious falls.
- Keep away from the edge of unprotected floors/roofs that are elevated. If you lose your balance while working close to the edge, gravity is always going to win!
- Exercise caution when rising, sitting or reaching from a rolling task chair or stool.
- Always sit up straight and have hips far back on the seat. Do not sit on the edge of the seat.
- Always grasp the seat or arms while attempting to sit or rise. Inspect the chair regularly for wear and tear or damages. 5-legged chairs and stools are much more stable than 4-legged chairs and stools.
- Use soft-wheeled castors on hard flooring surfaces (i.e. tile) and hard-wheeled castors on soft flooring surfaces (i.e. carpet).
- Watch for imperfections in the flooring, such as damaged chair mats or floor tiles or ripped carpet, that may cause imbalance and falls from rolling task chairs or stools.
Photo source: New York Times
June is National Safety Month, and one of the topics of focus this year is Building a Safety Culture. “Safe and Compliant or Not at All” is one of our core values here at Heritage, and part of upholding that value means having not only an experienced leader at the head of our safety operations, but someone with a passion for it. In March of this year, Jim Mangas joined the Heritage team as our new Director of Safety. He came to Heritage with nearly 20 years of safety leadership – including direct relevant experience in manufacturing and chemical environments. He leads with vision, focus and a positive attitude – and has a proven track record for establishing and executing safety programs and processes across organizations. We interviewed him to get his perspective on building a safety culture, and what that means in our industry and at Heritage.
How did you get started in health & safety? Why did you choose this path?
My first few years out of high school I was a firefighter/paramedic. I started doing some safety work on the side and it sparked my interest, so I went into the field full time. I like safety because we get the chance to prevent something bad from happening. As a firefighter/paramedic we were mostly reacting to something that happened. Safety professionals get the opportunity to get ahead of the incidents and make a difference.
What is the biggest challenge(s) you have faced as a safety leader/director during your career?
I feel like my biggest challenge has been getting company leaders to move beyond compliance, that the OSHA standard is not enough in many cases. Unfortunately, many feel that doing the minimum is enough. I am sure many safety professionals have heard the same line that I have for many years “We only have to meet the OSHA Standard”. I read a quote somewhere that says, “the minimum is one small step above inadequate”. That is exactly how I feel. We must continually find better, safer ways to work. Safety has to evolve with the workplace. To do this, companies should be looking at industry best practices and benchmarking others that are doing safety right
How can businesses make safety more ingrained in their culture?
Safety must be a core value, the highest regarded value. It is the highest held value because it’s about people. Safety is not a value that is just talked about but one that we live out. It must be the way you do everything in your business. Everyone from the CEO to the janitor must act upon this value.
Why did you decide to join Heritage?
Growing up in Indiana, Heritage is a well-known company, family owned, and they have a great reputation. Not only are they a safe company, but they lead the way in safety. I wanted to work for a company that gives back to the community, and Heritage does that in many ways.
What does Heritage’s core value of “Safe and Compliant or Not at All” mean to you?
I love this, it was one of the first things I read on the website before I interviewed for the role. This means that if our workers get into a situation that is not safe or not compliant, they have the power to stop. We will not start the job or finish the job until we are certain it can be done safely. Every Heritage employee, visitor and contractor has that power. This means we are living out the value and that is exactly what we want.
What initiatives are you most excited about implementing or advancing at Heritage?
Heritage has a great Health & Safety Process. Our culture is very safety driven. For me, that means the foundational safety principles are in place and working well. I will be focusing on continuous improvement looking for better ways to do safety. We will be implementing a Serious Injury & Fatality Prevention (SIF) Process. We want workers to be able to identify SIF potential in their routine, everyday tasks so we can stop it before anything happens. With SIF, you can’t take the business as usual approach, it takes a paradigm shift to make the needed impact.
To learn more about National Safety Month, visit: https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/get-involved/national-safety-month
To learn about some of our safety initiatives, check out some of our other blog posts on the topic: https://www.heritage-enviro.com/tag/safety/
Today marks 10 years that Heritage has been a part of the SmartWay® Transport Partnership, an innovative collaboration between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the transportation industry. Since we joined the partnership in 2010, we’ve won two Excellence awards, which go to the top two percent of SmartWay Partners who have made significant contributions to reducing the impact of transportation on air quality.
Heritage serves customers all over North America, and participating in the SmartWay program for the past decade has played a major role in reducing our total carbon footprint.
Participation in the program means making smart decisions on equipment, routing, and driver behavior. The process of data tracking creates a framework for measuring and encouraging year-over-year improvements. To be eligible to display EPA SmartWay decals, a tractor or trailer must each comply with strict program guidelines:
By moving away from 2014 and 2015 model year tractors, Heritage saw an average of $6,730 in fuel cost savings per tractor. We also went to the Thermo King Envidia APU (auxiliary power unit). This APU allows our drivers to enjoy comforts of home while out on the road without having to keep our tractors idling during breaks. Along with investing in fuel saving technology, we’ve also focused on safety. We’ve added cameras, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning systems on the tractors to keep our drivers and all people on the roads safer.
Having an extensive transportation network enables us to safely treat and dispose of waste in the best way possible, regardless of where it is generated. But we recognize that transportation has an impact on the environment too, and by participating in EPA’s SmartWay program, we’re reducing our carbon footprint and making our transportation activities more sustainable.
For information about the SmartWay Transport Partnership visit www.epa.gov/smartway.