As winter weather compounds the steady rise in workplace falls, the American Society of Safety Engineers is offering tips to stem the toll, which causes injury, death and a multibillion-dollar workers’ comp tab each year.
Slips, trips and falls in the workplace continue to be the cause of many workplace injuries and illnesses. Floors, walkways and ground surfaces were the source of 20 percent of all days-away-from-work cases in 2007, an increase of seven percent from 2006, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2008, the number of fatal falls on the same level increased from 2007 to a total of 84 deaths.
According to the 2009 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index (http://bit.ly/5gRski), in the U.S., disabling workplace injuries from same-level falls directly resulted in $6.2 billion in workers compensation costs in 2007, second only to overexertion as a leading cause of disabling injury. From 1998 – 2007, falls on the same level increased by 36.7 percent, the index said.
According to ASSE’s Professional Safety Journal article “Slips, Trips & Falls in Construction & Mining: Causes & Controls,” four factors can contribute to slip, trip and fall hazards:
• Workers may be prone to slip, trip and fall hazards because of improperly using equipment, fatigue, risk-taking behavior and/or inadequate training.
• Machines and equipment may be improperly designed, missing components or not maintained properly.
• Work environments may have snow, ice, wind, poor lighting or other dangerous conditions.
• Management may not pay enough attention to worker, machine and environmental factors through proper planning, monitoring and corrective action.
ASSE suggests these basic tips to help prevent slips, trips and falls at work:
• Remove slip, trip, and fall hazards from the work area, especially in high-traffic areas. Even though workers may be moving at a reasonable pace and watching where they are going, predictable surfaces with good traction are important.
• Establish a no-running policy. Although some industries require staff to work at a quick pace, prohibiting running can prevent injuries.
• Make sure workers wear proper footwear that has good traction and is in good repair. Examine the soles of shoes regularly to check for excessive wear. Slip-resistant footwear should be considered where necessary. Footwear with spiked or studded soles can improve traction on ice.
• Cleaning procedures for floors are essential to good slip resistance. Make sure that all walking surfaces are kept free of spills, water, oil and other substances that may affect traction of the surface.
• Report any spills and provide adequate signage regarding hazards such as spills, uneven surfaces, debris, icy sidewalks, smooth concrete and other hazards. Also ensure that your company has a process that documents incidents and reports slip and fall hazards.
• Make sure that staff is trained on how to properly clean/remove slip, trip and fall hazards. Also ensure that staff and management are trained in slip, trip and fall prevention. Workers should resume work only after a hazard has been removed or resolved.
• Make sure all areas have adequate lighting, to illuminate any potential hazards.
• Ensure that there are adequate drainage systems and pumps in place to prevent surface water accumulation.
• Be aware of the floor types in your company to help determine the degree and nature of hazards.
For more information and guidelines, ASSE offers the Slips and Trips Compendium, which includes ASSE and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) voluntary consensus standards. For more information, call ASSE customer service at 847-699-2929, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit https://www.asse.org/cartpage.php?link=standards.