The bad news about slips, trips, and falls (STF) is they are one of the leading causes of injury and death in and out of work. In Canada, over 40,000 workers are injured each year from falls alone. OSHA estimates slips, trips, and falls cause 15% of all accidental deaths, second only to motor vehicle accidents. These types of incidents don’t just lead to broken bones or broken backs either. Slips, trips, and falls often lead to traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
According to an article in ISHN, when workers go down, other things skyrocket: industrial insurance premiums and costs associated with training replacement workers, not to mention a person’s pain, temporary or permanent immobility, and risk of depression due to the compromised lifestyle.
The good news? Slip, trip, and fall incidents are preventable and STF hazards are often easy to identify and correct.
What Causes STF?
There’s not a lot of mystery behind what causes slips, trips, and falls. You could look around you right now and find at least one STF hazard. Here’s a list of some common offenders:
- Wet, icy, snowy surfaces
- Overspray and mist from machines
- Poor lighting
- Cable and cords in aisles
- Working from heights without fall protection
- Difference in traction/friction between floor surfaces
Be a Better Supervisor
It’s important to understand that for the most part we don’t pay attention to how we walk. It is automatic, or more correctly, it’s autonomic; meaning our brains unconsciously take over routine tasks like walking, driving, typing, and even petting a dog without much thought. We are on autopilot essentially and often slip and trip hazards go unnoticed.
The best way to protect workers from slips, trips, and falls is to remove the hazards. Slip-resistant shoes, awareness training, and warning signs are helpful and often required, but they aren’t foolproof. For example, signs often become part of the normal scenery of the environment and the message quickly becomes meaningless because our brains have tuned it out.
Here are some steps you can take to remove the hazards and keep workers, vendors, contractors, and visitors safe at your site.
- Review slip, trip and fall incidents to check for commonalities or patterns. For example, do incidents occur at a certain time of day, in a particular area, or by a certain job function or type?
- Have a system in place where hazards can easily and quickly be reported, addressed, and eliminated.
- Perform regular hazard assessments and look for slip, trip, and fall hazards and promptly correct them.
- Enforce spill prevention practices and clean-up procedures.
- Install drip pans and absorbent mats around wet processes.
- Keep stairways and parking garages well-lit and well-maintained.
- Place absorbent, anti-skid mats with beveled edges in entrances to help with traction.
- Remove snow and ice as quickly as possible. put down salt or other material to help melt it.
- Establish and enforce a housekeeping policy and a schedule of related tasks – similar to a maintenance schedule for machines.
- Block off high risk areas.
- Require cords, cables, and wires be kept out of aisles or safely covered is they can’t be.
- Enforce the use of fall protection when work from heights is done.
- Put a disciplinary system in place for anyone that violates safe work practices, housekeeping procedures, etc.