There are numerous circumstances in which an employee can become injured on the job by slips, trips, and falls. Wet spots, food debris, oil and/or grease, polished floors, loose flooring or carpeting, uneven walking surfaces, clutter, and electrical cords are common factors contributing to these hazards.
Major Factors Contributing to Slips, Trips and Falls
It may be obvious that wet or slippery surfaces are a major cause of workplace injury. However, it is often overlooked that polished floors such as marble and ceramic tile can be slippery even when dry and significantly increase the potential for a slip when moisture (liquid and food spills, rain, snow and mud) is introduced. Likewise, high-risk areas also include spaces around coolers, freezers, dish washing areas, cooking areas, and doors leading to and from any area where floor surface changes occur.
There are a number of simple, proactive safety measures that businesses can take to reduce the risk of injury due to slippery surfaces. For starters, immediately cleaning up spills and leaks, and placing caution signs to warn employees and patrons of slippery surfaces can help reduce the risk of slip, trips, and falls. Requiring employees to wear proper footwear for better traction on slippery surfaces is another proven measure against slips and falls. Additionally, some business owners may choose to invest in slip-resistant floor surfaces or use anti-skid adhesive tape in high-traffic areas, which are also effective controls in reducing the risk of injury.
Another leading cause of slips, trips and falls is change in elevation or surface texture. For example, if carpeted flooring is at an entryway and the rest of the space is tile-floored, this may cause a hazard for employees and patrons who are moving quickly. Even a change in walking surfaces as little as one-quarter to one-half of an inch can cause a trip. To avoid injury, it is important for business operators to conduct periodic inspections of the property and grounds to identify and correct trip hazards and replace missing tiles or other flooring materials that create uneven surfaces. Placing caution signs to warn employees and patrons of uneven floor surfaces, elevation changes or other potential trip hazards is another basic step to increase safety.
A final and often overlooked factor contributing to such accidents is insufficient lighting. Adequate lighting is critical in the prevention of slips and falls, particularly in businesses with dim lighting like some restaurants. Moving from light to dark areas, or vice versa, can cause temporary vision problems that might be just enough to cause a person to slip on spilled liquid or trip over a misplaced object. Keeping work areas and walkways well lit will help prevent injuries.
Reducing Risk, Reducing Costs
All workers should have a good understanding of slip, trip and fall hazards in their workplace. This understanding should be developed during new employee orientation and reinforced through ongoing training sessions. All employees play a part in maintaining good housekeeping and cleanliness. Employees should be trained to report any hazards to their supervisors or those who are responsible for correcting unsafe conditions in the workplace.
Employees are not the only ones who benefit from improving on-the-job safety measures. Successful control of the hazards associated with slips, trips and falls reduces the risk of injury, which can ultimately help reduce the business costs associated with workers' compensation insurance claims and premiums.
By taking a proactive and thoughtful approach to evaluating possible hazards in the workplace, businesses can simultaneously keep their most important assets - their employees - safe and further facilitate their business' long-term success.