January Safety Theme – Slips, Trips, & Falls

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.

graphic with tips to avoid slips, trips, and falls in winter weather

Photo source: New York Times

Winter Safety

Are You Working Safely?

Do you feel as if you are conducting safe workplace techniques? Do you think you could be doing things to make your work environment safer? By taking extra precautions, we have the ability to take initiative and make work safe. It is our responsibility to act safely whether it be at work, home or on the road. With winter quickly approaching, and in some places already having set up camp, we need to consider winter safety. 

Safety at Work

Winter causes many problems, especially when it comes to slipping. Slips and trips happen throughout all four seasons, but winter poses more of a threat because of the falling temperatures. From a company standpoint, we need to make sure we provide a work environment where our employees can perform their job safely and efficiently. Removing snow from all areas helps keep our employees from slipping or falling. Clearing parking lots, sidewalks and all other walkways makes sure your employees have a clear path to go to and from the building or site. Along with snow, we need to make sure there is not an overabundance of ice that is built up in any area. Any spots that are icy should be salted to ensure it melts and is not causing anyone to slip. When an ice patch is identified, there should be a caution sign placed at the time salt is put down. This is going to warn employees to watch their step and to proceed cautiously.

Employer Responsibilities

It is our responsibility as an employer to provide a safe workplace. By examining work environment conditions, we are staying involved. By being involved we are going to personally know that everything is how it should be and is safe for the employees working in the area. If an accident were to happen we need to make sure we keep records or all work-related injuries and illnesses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were a little over 2 million nonfatal work-related injuries in 2016 alone. If we take the time as employers and employees to have a safe work environment, we can reduce the numbers of work related injuries.

Employee Responsibilities

Whether we work inside or outside there are winter safety steps we need to take in order to avoid injuries. Those of us who work outside need to become aware of our surroundings constantly throughout the day. If there are any spots that look slick, we need to take note, so we can avoid any accidents. Again, putting up caution signs and eliminating slick spots can reduce accidents. Working outside, we need to take care of our personal health as well. With temperatures that can reach into the negatives, we need to protect ourselves from frostbite and hypothermia. Add an extra layer to keep warm, cover your face to keep cold air from entering your lungs, causing respiratory issues. Even if we work inside we still need to take steps to be safe. When you are coming in and out of your facility, check your surroundings. Be sure to avoid any slick areas and report them to your building manager if there are any.

Are You Prepared?

Now you have some things to think about when making your work environment a safer place. We have the ability to take those extra steps, so let’s get out there and keep ourselves and others safe.