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Slip, Trip, Fall Hazards Get No Respect

Slips, trips and falls are the second leading cause (after motor vehicle crashes) of occupational injuries. They cause head injuries, back injuries, broken bones, lacerations, sprained muscles and a significant number of deaths. According to Liberty Mutual’s 2010 Workplace Safety Index, they are the second leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, accounting for $8.37 billion a year in direct costs, including lost production and overtime.

Slips occur when there is too little traction or friction between a shoe and a surface. Trips occur when a foot contacts an unexpected object or drops unexpectedly to a lower level, throwing a worker off-balance. A fall occurs when a worker is too far off-balance. Typically, a trip results in a forward fall while a slip produces a backward one.

Britain’s HSE has three short videos (Construction, Kitchen, Shop) on the dangers of slips, trips and falls. Falls from heights are another very serious concern at construction worksites. More information about this hazard is available on the LHSFNA’s Fall Protection webpage.

These accidents and injuries can be prevented. The first step is recognizing the hazard. The next step is to correct a recognized hazard promptly. The third step is preventing the hazard’s recurrence.

Common slip, trip and fall hazards:

  • Spills
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Poor lighting
  • Unanchored rugs
  • Weather conditions
  • Unsafe floor products

Supervisors, workers and workplace safety committee members should keep these dangers in mind as they work or survey a worksite. When a hazard is spotted, it should be immediately addressed.

Preventing recurrence requires more training for supervisors and workers and consistent monitoring of workplace conditions. Factors in slips, trips and falls are:

  • Poor housekeeping
  • Improper footwear
  • Obstructed vision
  • Shortcuts
  • Rushing
  • Ignoring apparent hazards
  • Inattention

To address these and other hazards, the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division recommends establishment of joint labor-management worksite health and safety committees. This ensures a regular means of monitoring safety and health conditions and a way for labor and management to work together on developing and implementing best practices.

[Steve Clark]

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