The Chill in the Air Means it is Time to Revisit Slip and Fall Safety Training

The Chill in the Air Means it is Time to Revisit Slip and Fall Safety Training

OSHA requires slip, trip and fall hazards to be quickly identified and addressed and for employers to conduct regular and periodic inspections and maintenance.

With so much attention placed lately on Covid-19 vaccines, testing and prevention measures, it is easy to slip and forget the other common threats that put employees in danger. Now, however, with the cooler temperatures and changing colors in some parts of the county, we have a brisk reminder of the importance of thinking beyond the pandemic and refreshing our training programs to teach employees how to avoid slips, trips and falls in the workplace.

In addition to the slippery and icy surfaces outside our doors, manufacturers should also pay attention to dangerous conditions inside their facilities and factor that into their employee safety training programs. Slip, trip and fall accidents remain among the most common sources of work injuries and can be highly expensive for employers from a loss of productivity, lawsuits and OSHA penalties.

According to the CDC, more than one million Americans sustain injuries from slip, trip and fall incidents. More than 17,000 people die as a result of those injuries. Slip, trip and fall injuries make up 15 percent of all job-related injuries, which account for between 12 to 15 percent of all workers' compensation expenses.

Most falls land under two categories defined by the CDC: elevated and same level. While same-level falls are more common and cause injuries more frequently, elevated falls cause more severe injuries to fewer people. More than 60 percent of all elevated falls, according to the CDC, are from a height of less than 10 feet.

OSHA frequently inspects the causes behind work-related falls to avoid future slips and on greasy or wet surfaces. However, the most prevalent issue is the presence of unprotected sides and edges where someone can fall from an elevated level. OSHA rules require working surfaces to be kept clean, workroom floors dry, walking-working surfaces free of hazards and stairs to have three treads and four risers per flight.

OSHA also requires slip, trip and fall hazards to be quickly identified and addressed and for employers to conduct regular and periodic inspections and maintenance of all walking work surfaces in their workplace. Just as important, training is required to teach employees how to recognize the hazards of falling and the procedures to be followed to minimize these hazards, including the use of personal fall protection and proper ladder climbing. With that in mind, here are some of the more common areas and approaches to teach employees how to minimize slips, trips and falls.

Improve General Employee Awareness of Their Surroundings

Every employee is guilty of occasionally zoning out at work. Whether they are daydreaming or just not paying attention, that is when they lose sight of the inherent risks around them, especially when it comes to slips, trips and falls. For example, a worker might simply ignore wet surfaces, even with signs in place indicating floors have been freshly mopped. They may also not use the handrail or take multiple steps at a time when using the stairs.

These little, unintentional mistakes can result in serious injuries and subsequent claims. You can reduce these incidents by including them in your ongoing safety training. Teach employees how to spot and help prevent risks and how to report them. Also, consider cultivating behavior-based safety to encourage employees to behave in a manner that helps reduce their risk exposure.

Teach the Proper Use of Fall Prevention Equipment

Employees should readily have access to fall prevention equipment like harnesses, safety lines and hard hats. The real trick is getting them to use it and use it properly. Identifying the proper use is not just about how to wear the equipment but also how to properly think ahead and use it in a way that ensures protection.

For example, when trying to elevate to a certain height, they should know how far the extension equipment will reach before starting their ascent. Once determined, do they know how to use that equipment properly? Are they trained, documented and approved to use that equipment? Also, are processes in place to regularly inspect that equipment prior to use?

Cut the Horseplay

It is one thing to have fun at work, but it is entirely different when it puts employees at risk. You can eliminate this threat by enforcing a zero-tolerance policy against horseplay at work. That includes no running, skipping, pushing, playing ball or roughhousing at work. What is horseplay? You will know when you see it.

Create a Safe Walk to and from the Parking Lot

A lot can happen between where employees park their cars and enter the building. Whether it's water, ice or snow, ensure you've properly cleared walkways, including sanding or de-icing walkways. And educate employees on where slippery surfaces can develop. Also, take time to inspect for uneven walkways or items that might trip employees. Provide proper lighting to identify risks and illuminate workers for drivers to see.

Teach Ladder Safety

OSHA has plenty to say about ladder safety. It is a common source for inspections and injuries if left unchecked. In addition to training employees to use ladders safely, you have to constantly inspect them for safety. Ladders can become slippery if left dirty or they can wear out and break if they are not inspected for integrity. There is also the issue of training employees on how to pick the right ladder for the job. So, as you make plans for the approaching winter, take time to refresh your training procedures and documentation to address slips, trips and falls. Just as we are encouraged to change the batteries to our home smoke detectors when daylight savings time changes, use the drop in temperatures as an at-work safety reminder to refresh training.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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