Slips, trips and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They cause 18 percent of workplace injuries and 15 percent of deaths. What can you do to keep your employees as safe as possible?
A comedian might trip and fall during a routine for laughs. But when your employees trip and fall, it’s no laughing matter. Slips, trips and falls can lead to serious injury and even death.
Know Your Flooring
To help prevent slips, trips and falls, OSHA requires all permanent places of employment, except where domestic, mining or agricultural work only is performed, to have floors that are clean and, so far as possible, dry. They must also be free from protruding nails, splinters, holes or loose boards.
Some floors are safe when dry but become very slippery when wet. Other floors become more slippery as they age. Most floors become more slippery if they are not regularly cleaned, so avoid letting dirt and grease build up.
It is important to know your floors and how to maintain them. Employees need to be trained to use the proper cleaning solutions. If you use contractors for cleaning work, make sure that someone from the cleaning company inspects the floors, knows how to clean them and makes sure his employees follow proper procedures.
Slip, trip and fall hazards increase on wet or snowy days, as people track water indoors. To keep your floors dry and safe on wet or snowy days:
- Check entry mats and runners regularly to make sure they are not saturated. Replace or wet-vacuum them, using a grounded adapter.
- Consider installing mats that lie flush with the floor and have a receptacle to catch water.
- Keep mops and cleaning supplies near entrances or places where water is used.
- Use hazard signs to warn employees of wet or slippery floors and other obstacles that could impede foot traffic.
Parking Lots and Sidewalks
A high percentage of slips and falls occur in employee parking lots and on sidewalks. Routine maintenance can decrease the odds of accidents:
Make sure that roofs and eaves have appropriate drainage so water flows away from walkways.
- Inspect and repair cracked or uneven paving in parking lots and on sidewalks. Irregularities of ¼” to ½” are large enough to trip on.
- Inspect and clean storm drains to make sure water will flow freely; the openings on grates should be one inch or less.
- Check that utility covers lie flush.
- Use contrasting colors to highlight speed bumps, utility covers and drains.
- Regularly sweep parking lots and walkways to eliminate leaves and other debris.
If you live in a snowy climate:
- Assign snow removal and ice-melting duties to specific staff and make sure they are trained and understand their responsibilities.
- If you hire a vendor for snow removal, require clear performance commitments. Also require proof of general liability insurance and ask to be added as a “named insured” on the vendor’s policy.
- When possible, complete snow and ice removal each day prior to the start of business.
- Create a log to monitor snow removal work.
- Find an appropriate area to pile excess snow — somewhere with good drainage and no foot traffic.
Stairs and Ramps
Stairs and ramps also pose hazards. Good lighting can help reduce accidents, especially in areas with elevation changes.
- Install handrails on stairs, 30 to 34 inches above the leading edge of the stair treads.
- Use slip-resistant paint to coat walkways and ramps that may become slippery.
- Block off hazardous areas.
Proper footwear can greatly minimize slip hazards. Employees working in areas that can become wet or slippery should avoid shoes with leather or smooth soles or high heels. Closed- toed shoes that can be laced and tightly tied with slip-resistant soles provide the best traction and safety. Employers that have workers in wet or slip-prone areas can require employees to wear non-slip footwear for work use. To ensure compliance, especially among low-wage workers, some employers will reimburse employees for this expense.
Routine maintenance and some simple upgrades or repairs can greatly reduce slip-and-fall hazards. Regularly check your premises for the following:
- Are aisles and passages clear and wide enough for easy passage? If not, remove clutter or obstructions.
- Can you clearly see any level changes, steps or obstructions? If not, upgrade lighting and/or install reflective safety striping.
- Are there electric cords snaking across areas where people walk? If so, additional outlets (including floor outlets) can reduce this hazard.
Any time a worker is working at a height of six feet or more above ground level (construction industry) or four feet or more (general industry), the worker needs additional protection, which is beyond the scope of this article.