Most of us are very experienced walkers. After all, we’ve been walking almost all of our lives. So why is it that simply putting one foot in front of the other to get from place to place results in so many injuries? After all, slips, trips and falls are a major cause of injuries, both at work and away from work.
• Falls usually cause lost time from work.
• Slips and trips cause over 80,000 injuries each year.
• Slip-fall accidents account for 30% of all reported injuries.
• Over 540,000 slip-fall injuries, requiring hospital care, occur each year.
• Slip and falls are the number one cause of accidents in Hotels, Restaurants and Public Buildings.
• According to the National Safety Council, slips and falls are the single largest cause of Emergency Room visits.
Why we fall:
• We slip because of too little friction. (usually….backwards)
• We trip because of interference with balance. (usually…..forward)
• We fall by moving too far off our center of gravity.
The Three Laws of Science
Friction is the resistance between things, such as between your shoes and the surface you walk on. A good example is a slip on ice, where your shoes can’t grip the surface, you lose traction and fall.
Momentum is affected by speed and size of the moving object. The old expression “The bigger you are the harder you fall.” is true. The more you weigh and the faster you are moving, the harder your fall will be.
Gravity is the force that pulls you to the ground. If you lose your balance and begin to fall, you are going to hit the ground.
There are many factors that contribute to slips, trips and falls:
• Loose, irregular surfaces such as gravel, shifting floor tiles, and uneven sidewalks, can make it difficult to maintain your footing.
• Floor mats that are flipped over.
• Rainy days with water on the floor. Mop up as quickly as possible.
• Oil, grease and other liquids can make walking surfaces extremely slick.
• Stairs present a special challenge, especially those that are taller, shorter, have a smaller tread depth, or are otherwise irregular.
• Obstructed aisles or walkways present tripping hazards or require frequent changes of direction, throwing you off balance.
• Insufficient light can make it difficult to see obstacles and notice changes in the walking surface.
• Adjusting your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing.
• Shoes with slick soles provide insufficient traction, while platform shoes and high heels increase your vulnerability to uneven surfaces.
• Moving too fast increases the likelihood you will misjudge a step or encounter a hazard before you have a chance to notice it.
• Carrying items can both obstruct your vision and impair your balance.
• Inattention and distraction interfere with your awareness of all of these hazards and increase your risk of injury.
• In parking lots there are pot holes, speed bumps, cracks in pavement, ramps, parking post.
What can we do:
Well, you can’t just stop walking. But there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of slipping, tripping or falling. You can adapt many of the principals of defensive driving and apply them to walking. Silly as it may sound, being a “defensive walker” can help you safely navigate many of the hazards lurking all around you!
• Scan your “road” for existing and potential hazards. Just as you do when you are driving, be aware of others, expect them to get in your way, and have an out when they do.
• Slow down to negotiate turns, corners, obstacles, wet floors, limited visibility and heavy traffic.
• Make sure you have adequate “tread.” Some experts believe up to half of all slips and falls could be prevented through proper footwear alone!
• Use a detour whenever possible to avoid wet surfaces.
• Realize that there are hazards involved in going “off road.” A shortcut across the lawn or through a flower bed may not be the best choice.
• Keep your mind focused on what you are doing!
Some other strategies for preventing a fall include:
• Limit the load you are carrying. Make sure it does not obstruct your vision. Whenever possible, use wheels of some kind so you can push or pull your load instead of carrying it.
• Exercise regularly to maintain strength, flexibility and balance.
Preventing slips and falls has to be a team effort. Walking around a spill or stepping over a rug that is flipped over might keep you safe, but what about the next person who walks by? By correcting the hazard or reporting it, you keep not only yourself safe, but your co-workers as well.
Let us remember:
If you drop it, pick it up.
If you spill it, clean it up.
If you take it out, put it away.
Look where you are going, and go where you are looking.