Slips, Trips & Falls

Employees should be aware of scenarios in which slips, trips and falls could result in injury—or worse.

Have you ever lost your balance while confidently walking somewhere and for a split second you aren’t quite sure if you will stay upright or go tumbling to the ground? That split second of fear is elongated by the thoughts that run through your head and the pain that hits your chest. For some, the second ends and they regain their balance but for others they fall leading to serious injuries or even worse. 

Slips, trips and falls sound like small hazards—everyone loses their balance from time to time, right? For employees in industrial, construction or warehouse settings, however, these hazards could be deadly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 1,000 workers die each year as a result of a slip, trip or fall and countless other mild or serious injuries resulting in days away from work. In the construction industry, slips, trips and falls account for 37 percent of all fatal injuries on a job site.  

Needless to say, it is of the utmost importance for employees to understand the hazards that may lead to a slip, trip or fall. Let’s take a look at each of these. 

Slips 

Slips can be defined as a loss of balance caused by too little friction between your feet and the surface you walk or work on. Slips are traditionally caused by wet surfaces, spills or weather-related hazards like snow or ice. According to OSHA, slips are most likely to occur when an employee is in a rush, wearing the wrong kind of footwear or is not paying attention to where they are walking.  

There are several things that can be done to ensure that hazards resulting in slips are reduced in your facility or on your jobsite. First, be sure to train employees to practice safe walking skills. They should be taking short steps in areas in which they may find slippery surfaces, as this can help you keep your center of balance under you. Employees should be aware of when surfaces have been recently cleaned or waxed, with adequate signage placed in easy to locate and read spots that allow workers to slow down and move with caution. 

All spills should be reported and cleaned up right away. Even minor spills can be very dangerous to an unsuspecting person moving through the space. Employers and safety professionals should also be diligent with grease buildups on floors or other surfaces an employee may find themselves on. This buildup of grease could lead to slips and falls as well.  

Trips 

A trip can be defined as a motion that occurs whenever your foot hits an object and you are moving with enough momentum to be thrown off balance. Like slips, trips are more likely to happen when you are in a rush and not paying attention to your movements or where you are going. 

Trips can be avoided in the workplace by following a few simple steps. First, be sure that you can see where you are walking. Don’t carry loads that you cannot see over or around, as this could lead to impaired vision of your feet and the space around you. Areas that are heavily trafficked by employees should be well lit, especially at night to avoid tripping hazards.  

Spaces should be kept tidy and free of debris. Furniture and office equipment should be arranged in a way that does not interfere with walkways or pedestrian traffic in the area. Should there become an issue with the walkway, perhaps a crack in the concrete or exposed cords in the way, the employer and supervisors should be notified right away to fix any issues that could lead to trip hazards.  

Falls 

Lastly, we have falls, which according to OSHA is defined as a motion that happens whenever you move too far off your center of balance. Falls typically happen as a result of a slip or trip and account for more workplace fatalities than any other reason. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency room each year. 

To avoid falls at your workplace, ensure that employees know to not jump off landings or loading docks when stairs are provided for them to safely decline. Any stairs or handrails that are loose or broken should be fixed or replaced right away and employees should be asked to go a different way until the hazard is mitigated. 

Employees should wear shoes with appropriate non-slip soles during the entirety of their shift and should also take time to walk carefully and cautiously through highly trafficked areas. Employers should keep areas clean and free of debris in an attempt to decrease the chance of a fall. 

Key Takeaways 

  • Employees should practice safe walking skills including taking short, unhurried steps and staying aware of potential debris in their pathway. 
  • Employers should make a concerted effort to ensure all areas are free of spills and a buildup of grease. 
  • Employees should not jump down from higher areas, rather they should use the stairs. 
  • Walkways should be kept free of any items that may interfere with a safe walkway. 
  • Should a hazard appear that can create a slip, trip or fall risk, it must be dealt with immediately.  

PRO TIP 

All spills should be reported and cleaned up right away. Even minor spills can be very dangerous to an unsuspecting person moving through the space. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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