Preventing slips, trips, and falls in the workplace is a critical component to workplace safety. This article seeks to apprise employers and employees alike about the dangers and costs of slips, trips, and falls, and how to prevent them.
The Surprising Frequency of Slips, Trips and Falls
According to the United States Department of Labor, workplace slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. Slips, trips, and falls account for 15 percent of all accidental deaths. They are the second leading cause of death, behind only motor vehicle accidental deaths. Slips, trips, and falls account for nearly 25 percent of all workers’ compensation claims.
Things that Can Cause Slips, Trips, and Falls
Things that Can Cause Slips
Spills on smooth floors or walking surfaces will naturally make the floor slippery. Water, grease, blood, food, oil, and mud can all create a slippery surface. Dry products can also create a slippery surface. Dust, plastic wrap, granules, and powders can also create a dangerous surface. Even when completely dry, highly polished or freshly waxed surfaces can be slick.
Other conditions that can cause slips include rugs or mats that are loose and not sufficiently anchored, sloped walking surfaces, gang planks and ramps that do not have skid resistant or slip resistant surfaces, and shoes that are wet, greasy, or muddy.
Things that Can Cause Trips
Trips can be caused by objects crossing aisles or walkways, such as exposed cables, extension cords, or uncovered hoses. Clutter in the aisles, walkway, or work areas can also cause trips. Additionally, open cabinets, file drawers, or desk drawers can be a cause of trips in the workplace.
Unmarked changes in elevation or levels, such as on steps or ramps can cause trips. Similar to slips, carpets and mats with curled edges or that are rumpled can lead to tipping. Floors that have uneven bricks or floor tiles, or missing bricks or floor tiles can also lead to trips.
Environmental Factors that Contribute to the Potential For Trips and Slips
There are a number of environmental factors that can contribute to trips and slips. Awareness of these potential hazards is critical to eliminating them from the workplace. The environmental factors that can contribute include the following:
- Poor lighting;
- Bulky personal protective equipment;
- Improper footwear;
- Excessive temperature;
- Excessive noise;
- Misty conditions;
- Improper cleaning methods;
- Improper cleaning products;
- Poor housekeeping;
- Inadequate signage; and
- Missing signage.
Human Factors that Increase the Risk of Slips and Trips
There are also human factors that can contribute to increased risks of slips and falls. Physical condition, fatigue, stress, illness, age, failing eyesight, medications, and the effects of drugs and alcohol can all contribute to slips and trips in the workplace. Human choices can also contribute to an increase in the risk of slips and trips. Human choices that should be avoided include not paying attention to surroundings, walking while texting, carrying too many objects at one time, taking unapproved shortcuts, and rushing.
The Types of Injuries that Can Occur Due to a Slip, Trip, or Fall
Types of injuries that can result from a slip, trip, or fall include the following:
- Sprains; and
Typical injury sites for slips, trips, and falls include the following:
- Head injuries;
- Hip injuries;
- Back injuries;
- Shoulder injuries;
- Wrist injuries;
- Elbow injuries;
- Knee injuries;
- Ankle injuries; and
- Foot injuries.
The Cost of Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls can happen in any organization. No workplace is exempt from the possibility that one or more workers will slip, trip, or fall on any given day. Slips, trips, and falls can result in injury, disability, or even death. The costs to both workers and employers can be significant.
The Cost of Slips, Trips, and Falls to the Employer
Costs to employers when an employee suffers an injury from a slip, trip, or fall include the loss of the productivity of the employee. It can also result in the costs associated with training a worker to replace the injured, disabled, or dead employee. Finally, employers can anticipate an increase in insurance premiums when a slip, trip or fall occurred that could have been prevented with careful thought and planning.
The Cost of Slips, Trips, and Falls to the Employee
The costs to the employee who suffers a slip, trip, or fall can include pain, temporary disability, permanent disability, a reduced quality of life, depression, lost wages, out of pocket expenses, and even death.
Steps Employers Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Slips and Trips and Falls
A professional housekeeping staff should be employed to maintain clean, orderly, and sanitary conditions. Workrooms should be clean and dry. For wet processes, the use of mats, platforms, or other dry standing places should be employed.
Where mechanical handling equipment is used, there must be sufficient safe clearance maintained at all times. Aisles and passageways should be kept in good repair and in clear conditions. Aisles should be instructed regularly with an eye towards obstructions either across the aisle (such as unrestrained cords) or in the aisle (such as bunched up carpeting). In areas of storage, permanent aisles and passageways should be clearly marked, such as with paint or tape.
Stairways with more than four stairs or risers must have handrails and standard stair railings. The railings must be equipped to handle a load of at least 200 pounds. Stair treads should be slip resistant.
Ladders should be maintained in good condition. Safety feet and auxiliary equipment should similarly be inspected regularly to ensure they are in good condition. Any ladder with defects must be removed from service for either repair or destruction. Pending repair or destruction, the ladder must be clearly marked “Dangerous. Do not use!” The top step of a step ladder should never be used.
If You Have Been Injured in a Slip, Trip, or Fall at the Workplace
If you have been injured in a slip, trip, or fall at the workplace, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury. The skilled Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys at the Bader Law Firm, LLC are committed to recovering all damages you may be entitled to. Contact the Bader Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation to discuss your case today.