How to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips and falls safety moment.
"Being in the prime of my youth and only being in the workforce for about ten years, I held the impression that only the elderly had to be concerned about slips, trips, and falls. At my age I figured that I was just too alert for that sort of mishap, and besides even if I were to take a tumble then with my good health and agility it would be no big deal.
This way of thinking certainly changed when I ended up on my back for six weeks recovering from a nasty fall I took while working at my job in a warehouse. As a result of my fall, I received a back injury that affected the discs in my lower back and I am told will most likely come back to haunt me in my later years. I now realize that age has nothing to do with the dangers of slips, trips, and falls."
- Ken (age 35), Warehouse Worker
Slips, Trips, and Falls: A Major Workplace Hazard
Sadly, Ken is far from the only person to have their lives altered by a fall at work.
Research shows that slip, trip, and fall accidents have the highest rate of incidents that lead to personal injuries. Slips, trips, and falls have also been identified by the Bureau of State Risk Management as one of the top five causes of workers compensation claims.
Given the prevalence of these incidents, your workplace accident prevention program should make slips, trips, and falls a top priority.
To help you mitigate this major risk, let's look at some effective prevention strategies.
Slips usually happen when there isn't enough traction between someone's footwear and the surface they're walking on. Slips typically cause the individual to be thrown backwards, often resulting in their back, shoulders, or head coming into violent contact with the hard surface beneath them.
While improper footwear can be a contributing factor to slip accidents, the major culprit is slippery surfaces.
This can happen when spilled liquids, oils, or other materials aren't cleaned up immediately. Freshly washed or highly polished floors can also be slipperier. And of course, patches of ice can compromise the safety of outdoor walking surfaces.
Tips for Preventing Slips
- Implement housekeeping and clean-up procedures to ensure that every floor in the workplace is kept in prime condition
- Institute a policy to have spilled materials cleaned up as soon as it is safe to do so
- Require workers to wear anti-slip footwear while they're at work
- Set up mats at entryways to collect water, snow, mud, and debris from footwear to limit the amount of slippery stuff that makes it into the work environment
- Strategically place non-slip mats or anti-slap tape on any walking surfaces where slips are more likely to occur
- Clear away snow regularly to prevent it from accumulating on outdoor walking surfaces, throw road salt on icy patches, and scrape away ice on any surface that will be used frequently
(Learn more about Selecting the Correct Footwear to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls)
Trips occur when an individual's foot comes into contact with an unforeseen object, or when encountering an unexpected drop in surface level on the walking surface. Even a slight one- or two-inch drop can throw someone off balance if they didn't see it coming.
Trips can be caused by very small obstructions in the travel path. A slight curl at the edge of a carpet can be enough to cause someone to fall over.
Tripping hazards in the workplace include:
- Cluttered or disorganized work environments
- Tools, boxes, and other items left in walking paths
- Extensions cords or other wires laid across the floor or the ground
- Uneven ground conditions, cracked sidewalks, or uneven flooring
- Distraction and inattention while walking
Tips for Preventing Trips
- Discourage distractions while walking (such as workers looking at their phones)
- Create an organization system so every item has a place and stays off walking surfaces
- Post warning signs for uneven surfaces or sudden drops in walking surface elevation
- If a cord has to be left across a walking surface, cover it with a cable protector that can be stepped on safely
- Make sure that every part of the workplace is well lit
- Repair damaged walking surfaces
Falls occur when someone is thrown off balance and falls to the floor. The consequences of falls range from minor injuries to life-threatening ones. They can result in short-term aches or injuries, or they can leave someone with a lifetime of pain or discomfort.
Falls often take place when worker attempt to retrieve objects that are beyond their normal reach. Falls while taking the stairs can result in particularly severe injuries. Flaws in the infrastructure, such as uneven flooring, can also be responsible for falls.
Tips for Preventing Falls
- Organize workspaces to ensure that commonly used items are close at hand (to limit the likelihood of workers over-reaching)
- Ensure that all stairs have safe and sturdy handrails
- Provide training so workers understand the risk of falls and the steps they can take to prevent them
- Install railings in locations where falls are more likely to occur
While there are many things an employer can, should, and in many cases must do to prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace, it is ultimately up to everyone to do their part. The key is to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
Avoid distractions while walking. Keep slip and trip hazards at the forefront of your mind when making your way across the workplace. And remember that these incidents are extremely common and could very well happen to you if you don't take right precautions.