Gearing Up for Slip, Trip and Fall Season
As the seasons change, you must consider the different hazards they bring.
- By Lino Patino
- Oct 01, 2020
In the era of COVID-19, threats brought on by the virus are on everyone’s mind. And while critical, it isn’t the only threat guests and employees face when entering your facility. According to the National Safety Council, more than 25,000 slips, trips, and falls happen every day in the United States—one every 17 minutes. While some accidents are unavoidable, each season poses unique challenges when it comes to preventing trips, slips, and falls. There are, however, solutions designed with seasonal implications in mind.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to increase floor safety in your facility. The best place to start is by getting to know your building inside and out and by starting as your employees would, in the parking lot, on the sidewalk, at the front door, and eventually the lobby. These are the spots where first impressions of your building are made and are, unfortunately, high traffic areas where accidents happen.
As we relish the beauty of fall and prepare for the impending winter, consider the following seasonal effects to maximize safety for the slippery season ahead.
Factors for Fall
Shorter spans of daylight, falling leaves, and irregular temperatures mark the beginning of the autumn season. While fall can feel like a welcome reprieve from the hot summer days, it is not a time to overlook safety. During this time, in many climates, rainfall starts to increase, and with it brings the potential for slick floors and surfaces. Frost often also makes its first appearance of the year making recently fallen leaves, sidewalks, and loading docks slippery underfoot.
Check the condition of the concrete, stone tiles, and stairs. Are there any cracks that need filling before colder conditions set in? Since it is getting dark sooner in the day, evaluate any uneven areas or hard to see curbs or steps and consider marking these areas with reflective signs, yellow paint, or yellow tape. It is also a good time to consider adding additional lighting to illuminate parking lots and walkways to help increase visibility.
During the fall it is also a vital time to assess the lobby area of our facility as hazards from the outside like water, leaves, and sand, tend to make their way inside as the seasons change. While you are reviewing the safety of your lobby area, determine the appropriate amount of anti-slip matting that should be installed. As a rule of thumb, at least 30 feet of matting should be used inside doors from the outside to reduce the amount of tracked-in water and debris. If your facility sees heavy foot traffic, consider heavy-duty matting options. It is important to not only consider the front doors visitors enter from but also any back or side doors that are frequented by employees and delivery people.
Watch Out in Winter
Cold temperatures, ice, and snow are common winter factors that each pose risks for slips and falls. During the coldest months of the year, it is more important than ever to maintain dry floors and remove snow and ice from all exterior areas to avoid potentially hazardous situations.
When you are evaluating the entryway make sure to keep your eye on where water tends to puddle up or where you are finding the most ice or snow. Plan to remove these barriers to the entry in a timely and safe manner. Always have ice melt, salt and shovels on hand for quick clean-ups. It is also wise to install anti-slip treads in these areas to make surfaces less slick and provide more traction. When considering your overall safety plan, it may be a worthwhile investment to install additional handrails, external matting, and even awnings to protect guests from the elements and help them make their way indoors more safely.
Beyond front entrances and side doors, loading docks should also be looked at closely, especially if they are exposed to the outside elements. As people and carts parade through these areas often, hazards from the outside can make their way in. Special attention should be paid to loading and unloading areas to ensure employee safety. Look to see if the stone or concrete around and on the loading dock is cracked or chipped in a way that could pose a tripping hazard. If there are any immediate uneven areas, clearly mark them with signage, yellow paint, or yellow tape. If fixing or replacing isn’t an option in the colder winter months, these areas should be addressed once spring hits. For high-traffic areas, consider adding new and replacing old, worn-out anti-slip matting. Finally, don’t forget about the staircases. They should be visible and lined with anti-slip treads especially as heavy loads may be carried up and down them often. Consider adding signage or reflective tape to mark any hard to see surfaces to help mitigate falls.
Your job is complex. It takes balancing proactive measures while also yielding a comprehensive understanding of the tools that will make maintaining the safety of your facility possible. Safety is always a top priority, so you must look to not only monitor your facilities seasonally, but also promote, protect, and mitigate risk for employees and guests throughout the year.
As winter is approaching and you are gearing up for 2021, it is a prime time to consider proven risk mitigation tactics as part of a yearly safety strategy. With fall injuries costing U.S. employers $70 billion a year, your safety strategy has to be something that is considered often. To stay proactive, we recommend completing a safety walk around your facility weekly, paying attention to any immediate changes, shifts in the seasons, and any stray objects, messes, or spills that may have appeared. With diligence and the right tools in place, your efforts can make your facility safer for all who enter.
This article originally appeared in the October 2020 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.