OSHA reports slips, trips, or falls cause almost 20 percent of all workplace injuries. Second only to vehicle accidents. Slips and falls do not constitute a primary cause of fatal occupational injuries but represent the primary cause of lost days from work. A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 22% of slip & fall incidents resulted on average a combination of 31 days away and restricted work for each case.
According to Workers Compensation statistics, falls account for 16% of all claims, 33% of costs associated with sprains & strains, and 26% of all injury costs. We often underestimate the high potential for injury impacts by not addressing slippery, wet, muddy, or uneven walking and working surfaces.
Nearly all slips or falls have one or more of these factors as a cause:
- substandard walking surfaces
- surface contaminants
- walking style
- attitude of the person
Proper housekeeping and adequate lighting of the working area and walking surfaces can prevent most slips, trips, and falls. Sometimes surface contaminants can be very difficult to recognize as a hazard and once the hazard is noticed, must be cleaned up to prevent any risk of injury. Wearing the proper footwear for current weather conditions, as well as the surfaces being traveled, is important to prevent slips, trips or falls, and reduce fatigue. Headlamps, headlights, and flashlights are auxiliary light sources, not primary ones; light plant, work lights and string lights are suitable jobsite light sources.
Common Causes of Incidents on Walking and Working Surfaces
- Trips occur when an obstruction catches the worker’s foot and causes them to stumble forward. Tripping hazards include cords, demo debris, tools, uneven floors, improperly stacked/stored materials, and unseen or unexpected objects in weeds or under snow. These tripping hazards should be addressed and avoided. Pick up and put away tools and cords after every use. When in use be aware of the danger they could pose in a walkway.
- Slips occur when a person slides on a surface, causing a loss of balance. Slipping hazards include wet, icy, greasy, and frozen ground. Always wear proper foot apparel, that is not worn or damaged, appropriate for the job, with safety toe and slip-resistant. Use absorbents to clean up spills.
- Falls occur from an individual descending freely by the force of gravity. A fall can happen from any surface higher than four inches such as ladders, large equipment, trucks, through a hole and off platforms. The majority of falls occur from heights less than 10 feet, use precautions even at lower heights. Three-point contact is required to climb onto/off of equipment & trucks.
Safe Practices for Individuals
- Utilize handrails or grab bars in areas where there are stairs or changes in elevation.
- Use 3 points of contact when accessing equipment (1 hand/2 feet) or (2 hands/1 foot).
- When wet or icy, take smaller steps and try to ensure your torso stays balanced over your feet.
- Minimize distractions to remain alert to hazards. Avoid carrying items that block your view.
- Remove obstructions from travel areas, such as cords, hoses, boxes, and tools.
- Stay alert to parts projecting from machines or equipment.
“Honestly I’ve never seen anyone slip and fall on a banana peel. That doesn’t mean the risk doesn’t exist.”
Neil Patrick Harris, Actor, “How I Met Your Mother”