It’s probably happened to most of us. That momentary lapse of inattention thinking about a personal problem or distracted by an activity that ends in a slip, trip or fall. Falls from height and same-level falls are costly throughout the year. Both types occur frequently in fall and winter, and as a rule OSHA and other safety authorities issue reminders about these hazards and best practices -– including diligent housekeeping and better lighting.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls make up the majority of general industry accidents, which account for:
· 15 percent of all accidental deaths per year, the second-leading cause behind motor vehicles
· About 25 percent of all reported injury claims per fiscal year
· More than 95 million lost work days per year – about 65 percent of all work days lost
· unintentional slips, trips, and falls in the United States cost nearly $80 billion a year.
Here are six guidelines to help you create a safer working environment for you and your employees.
1) Create Good Housekeeping Practices
Good housekeeping is critical. Safety and housekeeping go hand-in-hand. If your facility’s housekeeping habits are poor, the result may be a higher incidence of employee injuries, ever-increasing insurance costs and regulatory citations. If an organization’s facilities are noticeably clean and well organized, it is a good indication that its overall safety program is effective as well.
2) Reduce Wet or Slippery Surfaces
Walking surfaces account for a significant portion of injuries reported by state agencies. The most frequently reported types of surfaces where these injuries occur include
· Parking lots
· Sidewalks (or lack of)
· Food preparation areas
· Shower stalls in residential dorms
· Floors in general
Traction on outdoor surfaces can change considerably when weather conditions change. Those conditions can then affect indoor surfaces as moisture is tracked in by pedestrian traffic. Traction control procedures should be constantly monitored for their effectiveness.
3) Avoid Creating Obstacles in Aisles and Walkways
Injuries can also result in from trips caused by obstacles, clutter, materials and equipment in aisles, corridors, entranceways and stairwells. Proper housekeeping in work and traffic areas is still the most effective control measure in avoiding the proliferation of these types of hazards. This means having policies or procedures in place and allowing time for cleaning the area, especially where scrap material or waste is a by-product of the work operation.
· Keep all work areas, passageways, storerooms and service areas clean and orderly.
· Avoid stringing cords, cables or air hoses across hallways or in any designated aisle.
· In office areas, avoid leaving boxes, files or briefcases in the aisles.
· Encourage safe work practices such as closing file cabinet drawers after use and picking up loose items from the floor.
· Conduct periodic inspections for slip and trip hazards.
4) Create and Maintain Proper Lighting
Poor lighting in the workplace is associated with an increase in accidents.
· Use proper illumination in walkways, staircases, ramps, hallways, basements, construction areas and dock areas.
· Keep work areas well lit and clean.
· Upon entering a darkened room, always turn on the light first.
5) Wear Proper Shoes
The shoes we wear can play a big part in preventing falls. The slickness of the soles and the type of heels worn need to be evaluated to avoid slips, trips and falls. Shoelaces need to be tied correctly. Whenever a fall-related injury is investigated, the footwear needs to be evaluated to see if it contributed to the incident. Employees are expected to wear footwear appropriate for the duties of their work task.
6) Control Individual Behavior
This condition is the toughest to control. It is human nature to let our guard down for two seconds and be distracted by random thoughts or doing multiple activities. Being in a hurry will result in walking too fast or running which increases the chances of a slip, trip or fall. Taking shortcuts, not watching where one is going, using a cell phone, carrying materials which obstructs the vision, wearing sunglasses in low-light areas, not using designated walkways and speed are common elements in many on-the-job injuries.
It’s ultimately up to each individual to plan, stay alert and pay attention.