Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common workplace incidents, making up nearly four percent of disabling workplace accidents.

These incidents also some of the most easily preventable. Over the past decade, major safety organizations like OSHA and the National Safety Council (NSC) have worked tirelessly to not only educate workers about slip, trip, and fall hazards, but also to promote smart strategies to reduce the risk of these types of incidents.

In this article, we’re going to look at some of the latest statistics around slips, trips, and falls in the workplace and look at what they mean when it comes to prevention efforts.

Slips, Trips, and Falls by the Numbers

According to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, 3.8 percent of disabling workplace injuries are the result of slips and trips. Common causes include:

  • Wet or oily floors
  • Spills
  • Loose mats or flooring with unequal traction
  • Wrinkled carpets or rugs
  • Clutter in walkways and work areas
  • Poor lighting

Falls from same level account for the majority (67%) of falls in the workplace. Although the outcomes aren't always as severe as falls from height, the potential for injury is still present and needs to be taken seriously.

Disabling slip, trip, and fall injuries cost almost $13 billion. And incidences have actually increased in 2017, with 38 more reported cases than in 2016.

(Learn 6 Tips for Safer Walking-Working Surfaces.)

What the Data Can Help Us Understand

The increasing prevalence of slips, trips, and falls might not seem like a serious issue, but it seems to indicate one of two things:

  • Not enough is being done to prevent these injuries
  • The slip, trip, and fall prevention strategies currently in place are not effective

In addition, digging deeper into that data is a great way to get to the root causes of these incidents. The BLS recommends considering a few key things:

1. Examine the Sequence of Events to Determine What Really Happened

While an incident may look like one thing on the surface, looking at the sequence of events can paint an entirely different picture. Understanding what really happened to cause the slip or trip enables safety leaders to properly allocate prevention resources.

Knowing the cause is the first step to understanding the right prevention methods. Is better housekeeping needed to keep the work area free of clutter? Do workers need better footwear? Does the walking surface need to be repaired?

(Learn about Corrective Action Reports: A Tool for Driving Safety.)

2. Review the Frequency of the Incidents

It’s important to understand how often incidents occur, particularly in relation to the industry averages. However, employers should strive to go beyond this to actually understand the nature of these incidents and how frequent specific events are.

For example, how many incidents of sprains occur each year, and is the rate disproportionate? How many near misses could have resulted in severe injuries? How many slips and trips occurred near other hazards like moving vehicles or heavy equipment in operation?

3. Identify Contributing Factors to Find Trends and Patterns

Identifying the root cause of an incident will show safety professionals and employers what is responsible for that specific event. Looking for patterns and trends, however, can give them a better understanding of the risk factors that play a role across several incidents.

Do slips and trips occur more frequently at a certain time of day? Do they occur primarily in wet conditions? Are older or younger workers disproportionately represented in slip and fall incidents?

(Find out How Leading Indicators Can Make Your Workplace Safer.)

Putting It All Together

It’s important to remember that while the available data is plentiful, there are other factors that can contribute to incidents, injuries, and fatalities that are much harder to quantify. These include things like the adequacy of training, language barriers, and provision of proper protective gear.

While incident rates won’t drop overnight, small steps can help organizations get there. Manufacturers are working hard to produce better PPE and agencies like OSHA continue the push for greater education and awareness among workers. Businesses must take full advantage of the prevention tools at their disposal, capitalizing on the availability of things like higher quality lighting, peel-and-stick mats that don’t bunch up, higher quality footwear, and employee education courses that are available in a range of languages and suit different learning styles.

The statistics can tell us what and where the problems are, but they can’t tell us how to fix them. Nevertheless, they offer a critical starting point from which businesses can further refine their slip, trip, and fall safety programs.