Slips, Trips and Falls
Work-related slips, trips, and falls can frequently result in serious or even disabling injuries that affect an employee’s ability to do their job. This can often result in lost workdays, reduced productivity and loss wages.
Have you ever been distracted by your cellphone while walking? Is your workspace or office cluttered? Do you ever walk out into a busy hallway without looking to see if a coworker or student is passing by? If you answered “YES” to any of these questions, you are at risk for slips, trips and falls.
- 32% of injuries in the workplace are slips, trips and falls.
- Many of these falls actually occur on flat/level surfaces.
- Slip and falls are the number one cause of accidents in public buildings, hotels and restaurants.
- Falls are the most common cause of injury visits to an emergency room.
Why we fall:
- We slip because of too little friction.
- We trip because of interference with balance.
- We fall by moving too far off our center of gravity.
The 3 Laws of Science
- Friction is the resistance between things, such as between your shoes and the surface you walk on. An example is a slip on ice where your shoes cannot grip the surface you lose traction and slip.
- 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.
Many factors contribute to slips, trips and falls:
- Loose, irregular surfaces, 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.
- 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 potholes, speed bumps, cracks in pavement, loose gravel, ramps, headstones, etc.
So, what should we do?
Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of slips, trips and falls. 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 flowerbed may not be the best choice.
- Adjusting your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing.
- 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 them, you keep not only yourself safe, but your co-workers as well.
Let’s all 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.