Slips, trips and falls are some of the most preventable workplace accidents, yet the numbers don’t seem to prove it. Second only to motor vehicles, incidents related to slips, trips and falls account for 15 percent of accidental deaths. They can also cost an employer an average of tens of thousands of dollars per incident.
You can avoid most of these issues through good housekeeping tactics and general common sense: remove clutter, keep floors clean, don’t run in the hallways. But there are other practices and facts that some people misunderstand or even overlook. Here’s some useful arsenal for your knowledge base when it comes to slips and falls.
A floor’s appearance can be deceiving.
You may think that a recently cleaned or resurfaced floor is more likely to cause an incident, but it’s often the opposite. A fresh floor finish can increase a floor’s slip resistance, giving it stronger traction and reducing the chance of someone losing his or her footing. In comparison, aged surfaces lose their resistance over time. They may look safer to walk on, but their traction has probably weakened.
Traditional cleaning methods can do more harm than good.
When there’s a spill, it’s easy to grab a mop and clean it. But before you do that, know that this method can increase the risk of a slip or fall. Traditional mops use a small amount of cleaning solution and often aren’t applied on a floor long enough to remove all soils. They also collect a lot of residue, which can produce a thin film of soil or other substance that makes a surface less slip resistant. Cleaning the mop and bucket can prevent excess material from accumulating, but it’s not always effective. Consider using a trolley bucket system as an alternative cleaning method. It combines a squeegee and vacuum system with fresh solution, allowing it to remove all liquids, soils and residue from the floor.
Don’t assume that employers are automatically responsible for an incident.
Many people are quick to blame employers and businesses for slips and falls. But they're only liable if they are directly responsible for an accident, or if they knew (or should have known) about the hazard and didn’t react fast enough. Let’s say a spill happens in a restaurant. If someone falls because it wasn’t cleaned in a timely manner, the fault could lie with the restaurant. If they knew about the spill and weren’t quick to address it, they are responsible for any injuries the person may have sustained. The same applies for all businesses.
Avoiding an incident usually comes down to you.
The majority of slips and falls happen because people aren’t vigilant enough. Incidents can often be avoided by taking some basic, easy steps. The first (and most obvious) is to always pay attention to where you’re walking. Most of us always feel rushed and can lose focus on our surroundings. Concentrating more on your environment is one of the surest ways to prevent an incident. Wet-floor signs and other warnings are there for a reason, so make sure you’re always aware of them.
Another effective way to prevent an accident is to wear proper shoes. Ineffective footwear is said to be responsible for 24 percent of industrial slip and fall injuries. One reason for this is that people don’t always choose the best shoes for their work environment. Whenever a slip or fall occurs, the person’s footwear is often evaluated to see if it played a role in the incident. Employers should help workers understand what kind of footwear is appropriate for their line of work.
There are various types of shoes to choose from that are designed for specific surfaces. If you work in wet or outdoor conditions, you don’t want footwear that’s made for oily or chemical-coated surfaces. There’s been a spike in slip-resistant footwear in recent years, making it easier to choose the right fit for any work environment. Keep these tips in mind when making your decision:
Do some sole searching: Make sure the soles of your shoes firmly grip the ground, have “tunnels” to keep liquids away from the shoe, and have circular grips to help prevent hydroplaning. Outsoles are tested by professionals to determine if they are slip resistant or not. They are rated on how they perform in various environments, including dry tile, wet tile (water and oil), and wet stainless steel (water). Shoes are labeled as slip resistant only if they meet the right standards.
Know a shoe’s limits: Don’t wear shoes past their breaking point. You’ll know it’s time to let go when you can place two pennies on part of the sole that’s smooth from frequent wear.
Create friction: Solid traction is achieved through friction between your shoe and the surface you’re walking on. Shoes with a flat surface don’t have the same frictional properties as those with tread, so they wouldn’t work well on slippery surfaces.
OSHA is doing its part to improve safety.
OSHA requires employers in all general industry workplaces to follow their “Walking–Working Surfaces” standards on slips, trips and falls. These regulations cover all walking and working surfaces — including floors, stairs, roofs and ladders — except where only domestic, mining or agricultural work is performed. Under these guidelines, employers are expected to identify slip, trip, and fall hazards, offer proper safety equipment and clothing, conduct regular inspections and maintenance, and educate employees on risks and safety procedures.
In 2016, OSHA issued a final rule to update standards on slip, trip and fall hazards and offer more requirements for personal fall protection systems. The rule went into effect Jan. 17, 2017, and will impact around 112 million workers. The revised regulations are expected to prevent about 30 deaths and 6,000 injuries a year. The following whitepaper offers a detailed description of the revised rule and how it will impact businesses across all industries.