Slips, trips and falls are routinely one of the top causes of injuries in workplaces. They also subtract from a company’s bottom line due to medical and workers’ comp insurance, lost productivity and retraining costs.
Here are 12 common mistakes made by companies when it comes to slip, trip and fall prevention:
- Mistake #12: Starting from scratch. There’s no need to. One place to start: consensus standards, such as ASTM’s Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces and ANSI’s Standard for the Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking/Working Surfaces.
- Mistake #11: Missing the opportunity to control walking style. Employees need to be reminded not to run and to keep their eyes on their walking path, especially while carrying items.
- Mistake #10: Relying on ineffective measurements. Best practice: Test flooring as it will be installed and used, under expected conditions (including wetness).
- Mistake #9: Short flight stairs and other elevation changes. Stairs with three or fewer steps need to be marked with contrasting color to other walking surfaces and be well lit. Seriously consider eliminating any change in level that’s 1/4 inch or greater.
- Mistake #8: Footwear. Shoes meant for both indoor and outdoor working conditions may not provide the best protection against slip, trips and falls in either circumstance because of their design compromises. Shoe features that need to be considered are: tread pattern, tread composition, sole height, support, lacing and adjustment method.
- Mistake #7: Ignoring pre-loss indicators. Slippery floors often lead to a lot of near-misses without injury before an incident with injury occurs. Attention needs to be paid to near-misses.
- Mistake #6: Less than adequate housekeeping. Any slip, trip and fall prevention program needs to include a serious statement of commitment to keeping walking/working surfaces clean.
- Mistake #5: Relying on single-factor solutions. While it may seem prudent to focus on the largest potential cause of slips, trips and falls in a particular facility, secondary factors shouldn’t be ignored after the primary one is addressed. Example: If a floor’s finish is addressed, the facility should still look into floor treatments, footwear, warnings and spill response.
- Mistake #4: Unresponsive contaminant control. Contaminants aren’t just chemicals. In some facilities they may be weather-related or food. Elimination of the contaminant should be considered first, followed by reduction and then dealing with the contaminants once they’re present.
- Mistake #3: Lack of proper cleaning procedures. Problems with cleaning range from poor spill response to improper daily cleaning to insufficient or nonexistent deep cleaning.
- Mistake #2: Selecting flooring inappropriate for the application. If a flooring sample can be installed to test under actual conditions, that’s ideal. If that’s not possible, find other examples of similar installations to yours.
- Mistake #1: Lack of proper follow-up. Selecting the proper flooring and establishing policies to prevent slips, trips and falls are the right places to start. But policies must be reinforced and updated if necessary. Companies should follow up on near-misses as well as injuries.
Adapted from a presentation by Keith Vidal of Vidal Engineering in St. Louis and David Natalizia of Dynamic Safety in Costa Mesa, CA, at the 2008 ASSE Safety Conference. For information on ASSE’s 2009 Safety Conference, click here.