Preventing slips and falls 1

The Workplace Guide to Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

You might not think much of slip and falls other than a small scrape or a bruised knee, but they can be quite severe and lead to serious injuries. Many businesses don’t take proper care to prevent injuries and it costs them tens of thousands of dollars each year. The worst part is that it’s entirely preventable.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips and falls cause a major loss in productivity. In previous years there was an average of:

  • 14 work days were lost due to falls to a lower level.
  • 9 work days were lost due to falls on the same level.
  • 7 work days were lost due to slips and trips.

In addition, slips and fall are extremely costly, in previous years.

  • The average workers’ compensation cost for a slips and trips was $20,228.
  • The average incurred workers’ compensation cost per slips and fall exceeded the average cost of other injuries by 14%.

In general, slips and trips occur due to a loss of traction between the shoe and the walking surface or an inadvertent contact with a fixed or moveable object which may lead to a fall. There are a variety of situations that may cause slips, trips and falls.

  • Wet floors
  • Loose flooring, carpeting or mats
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Freshly waxed or polished floors
  • Uneven or missing bricks and tiles
  • Broken steps or having no handrails
  • Office Clutter
  • Cords or cables
  • Open file cabinets
  • Damaged ladder steps
  • Weather hazards – rain, sleet, ice, snow, hail, frost

Here are six guidelines to help you create a safer working environment for you and your employees.

Create Good Housekeeping Practices

Good housekeeping is extremely important to keeping the office clean and hazard free. Aside from making the workspace look better it keeps potential hazards down to a minimum. Poor housekeeping can easily lead to workplace injuries costing thousands of dollars on bills and lost productivity. When an organization’s offices are clean and well organized, it’s a good indication that its overall safety program is effective as well.

Proper housekeeping must be set as a routine and part of each worker’s daily performance. Without it being part of the ongoing daily procedure it will never get done. To create an effective housekeeping program, there are three simple steps to get you started

  • Plan ahead– Know who is going to take care of each area, what that person needs to do and what it should ideally look like.
  • Assign responsibilities– Make sure there are specific people assigned to specific tasks
  • Implement a program– Make it a part of the daily life at the office.

Reduce Wet or Slippery Surfaces

Agencies report that a significant amount of slip an fall injuries are a result of people slipping on walking surfaces. These include:

  • Sidewalks
  • Food areas
  • Hallways

Weather has a way of changing the usually reliable parking lot into a slippery mess. A little rain can turn a normally dry hallway into a slippery mess when people walk by. Looking ahead and planning for these issues is something facilities need to do to prevent injuries.

  • Keep sidewalks and parking lots clean and in good condition.
  • When there is snow or ice, make sure they are cleared away, melted, have appropriate signs and in extreme cases block off access to dangerous areas.

Indoor control measures can help reduce the incidence of slips and falls.

  • Use moisture-absorbent mats with backing material to prevent slipping at entrance areas.
  • Make sure there are “Wet Floor” signs displayed as needed.
  • Make sure spills are cleaned up immediately.

Avoid Creating Obstacles in Aisles and Walkways

Aside from the unseen obstacles there are plenty of completely avoidable obstacles that clutter hallways that people can trip over. Ensuring that these areas are clean and safe to walk through is the best way to avoid these accidents. Having procedures and policies in place and allowing time for cleaning the area, especially in places where scrap material or waste is a by-product of the job.

  • Keep all work areas, hallways, service areas  and storage rooms clean.
  • Avoid stringing cords and cables across hallways or aisles.
  • Avoid leaving boxes, files or briefcases in office areas aisles.
  • Safe work practices such as closing file cabinet drawers after use and picking up loose items from the floor should be encouraged.
  • Conduct routine inspections for trip and fall hazards.

Use Proper Lighting

Whether in industrial or office settings, proper lighting makes everything easier. People receive about 85 percent of their information through their sense of sight. Appropriate lighting, without glare or shadows, can reduce eye fatigue and headaches; it can prevent workplace accidents by increasing the visibility of moving machinery and other safety hazards. Good quality lighting also reduces the chance of accidents and injuries from “momentary blindness” (momentary low field vision due to eyes adjusting from brighter to darker, or vice-versa, surroundings).
Use proper illumination in walkways, staircases, ramps, hallways, basements, construction areas and dock areas.

  • Keep work areas well lit and clean.
  • Upon entering a darkened room, always turn on the light first.
  • Keep poorly lit walkways clear of clutter and obstructions.
  • Keep areas around light switches clear and accessible.
  • Repair fixtures, switches and cords immediately if they malfunction.

Wear Proper Shoes

The shoes we wear can play a big part in preventing falls. The slickness of the soles and the type of heels worn need to be evaluated to avoid slips, trips and falls. Shoelaces need to be tied correctly. Whenever a fall-related injury is investigated, the footwear needs to be evaluated to see if it contributed to the incident. Employees are expected to wear footwear appropriate for the duties of their work task.

Control Individual Behavior

This condition is the toughest to control. It is human nature to let our guard down for two seconds and be distracted by random thoughts or doing multiple activities. Being in a hurry will result in walking too fast or running which increases the chances of a slip, trip or fall. Taking shortcuts, not watching where one is going, using a cell phone, carrying materials which obstructs the vision, wearing sunglasses in low-light areas, not using designated walkways and speed are common elements in many on-the-job injuries.

It’s ultimately up to each individual to plan, stay alert and pay attention.

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