Slips, Trips & Falls – Causes and Prevention

29 CFR 1910 Subpart D

According to the US Department of Labor, over 17% of all disabling occupational injuries results from a fall, making falls one of the most frequently reported workplace incident. In fact, 15% of all accidental deaths that occur in general industry are a result of a slip, trip or fall.

A slip can be defined as too little friction or traction between feet (footwear) and a walking/working surface, resulting in loss of balance. The typical result of this loss of balance, is a fall.

OSHA places falls into two separate categories: Fall at the same level, and fall to a lower level. Falls that occur at the same level occur when a worker falls into or against objects above the same surface. Falls to a lower area is when a worker falls below their current walking/working surface.

Causes

Slips may occur because of the following:

Liquid spills on smooth floors or walking surfaces such as water, grease, mud, oil food, bodily fluids and other wet material is one cause of slips and falls. However, don’t think that just because there are no liquid spills, that the surface is slip-free; dry product spills often contribute to slips as falls as well as wet conditions. For example, smooth walking surfaces where dust, powder, dry granules, wood shavings, plastic wrapping or other dry material connect is likely to create an equally dangerous slip potential. Wet and dusty conditions are not the only reasons for slips; transitioning from one surface to another surface is another often causes slips as well. Be sure to train your workers to be careful when transitioning from carpeted floors to vinyl or other smooth surfaces – especially when they are carrying tools and materials.
Some other common causes of slips are:

  • Highly polished floors such as granite, marble and ceramic tile.
  • Sloped walking surfaces
  • Loose, unanchored rugs or mats
  • Loose floorboards or shifting tiles
  • Ramps & gang planks without skid or slip-resistant surfaces
  • Metal surfaces
  • Dockboards & dock plates
  • Sidewalk & road covers
  • Mounting & dismounting vehicles & equipment
  • Climbing ladders
  • Loose, irregular surfaces such as gravel
  • Sloped and uneven terrain
  • Tree leaves, pine needles and other natural plant debris

 

Trips often occur because of:

  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Damaged steps
  • Debris accumulation
  • Various waste materials
  • Cables, chords, tools and materials
  • Protruding objects
  • Sidewalk / curb drop
  • Opened drawers / doors
  • Clutter, obstacles in aisles, walkway and work area
  • Sudden changes in elevation
  • Unmarked steps or ramps
  • Rumpled carpets, mats or rugs
  • Carpets with curled edges
  • Thresholds
  • Gaps
  • Irregularities in walking surfaces
  • Missing or uneven brick pavers or floor tiles

 

What if every one of the previously listed risk factors were non-existent, would the workforce be completely free of slips, trips and fall hazards? NO!

Human element is the one, unmeasurable, and unpredictable risk factor that must be considered when developing a training plan. For example, a worker walking on a perfectly even and perfectly stable working surface, who is carrying a generator that weighs 200 pounds, is at greater risk of slipping and falling than if he was walking on the same surface, and carrying nothing.

 

Human Risk Factors Include:

  • Age
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of physical fitness
  • Stress or illness
  • Intoxication (alcohol, drugs & prescriptions)
  • Carrying heavy objects or two many
  • Rushing
  • Situational Awareness – PAY ATTENTION

 

Environmental Conditions:

  • Poor lighting
  • Rain, sleet, snow and other bad weather
  • Poor housekeeping
  • Improper cleaning methods
  • Inadequate signage

 

Prevention Rules

Ladders

Just like any tool, or piece of equipment used on worksites, ladders must be inspected frequently for damage or defects – once you are on the ladder, it is too late. Always inspect the ladder PRIOR TO USE – InspectInspect and Inspectsome more! Here are some specific notes about ladder safety, and how you can stay safe while using ladders.

  • Never use the top of a ladder as a step, or platform
  • Never place a ladder in front of a door unless the door is locked, blocked or guarded
  • Immediately remove any ladder that is damaged or defective
  • Make sure the ladder is maintained and in good condition at all times!
  • Make sure that locks, and wheels are functioning properly and be sure to lubricate them often.
  • Don’t forget to check the safety feet and other auxiliary equipment.
  • Fiberglass framed ladders are notorious for splinters – be sure that all parts are free from splinters and that it has no sharp edges

20 FOOT MAX – for Stepladders

30 FOOT MAX – for Stepladders

 

 

Stairs

Handrails and railings must be present on the open sides of all exposed stairways and stair platforms, and handrails must be provided on at least one side of closed stairways preferable on the right side descending.

Stairway platforms cannot be less than the width of a stairway and a minimum of 30 inches in length measured in the direction of travel.

Stair treads must be reasonably slip-resistant and the nosing shall be of nonslip finish.

Stairs must have uniform rise height and tread width on any flight of stairs including any foundation structure used as one or more treads of the stairs.

Fixed stairs must have a minimum width of 22 inches.

 

Railings

  • Standard railing system consists of a top rail, intermediate rail and posts.
  • Railings have a vertical height of 42 inches nominal from the upper surface of the top rail to the floor.
  • The top rail is smooth surfaced.
  • Be sure that the end of the rail does not create a hazard with sharp edges or other uneven protrusions.
  • Stair railings may not be more than 34 inches nor less than 30 inches from the upper surface of the top rail to surface of tread in line with face or riser at forward edge of tread.

 

The following specifications must be followed for wood and pipe railings:

  • Posts must be at least 2 by 4
  • Posts must be less than, or equal to 6 feet
  • Rails must be at least 2 by 4
  • Pipe railings must be at least 1 ½ inches nominal diameter
  • Posts may not be spaced more than 8 feet on centers.

Structural Steel Railings must adhere to the following specifications:

  • Posts, top and intermediate rails 2 by 2 3/8 inch angles
  • Posts may not be spaced more than 8 feet on centers
  • When constructing railings, the completed structure must be capable of holding a load of 200 pounds applied in any direction at any point on the top rail.
  • Railing Toeboards – Standard toeboards are 4 inches nominal in vertical height, be securely fastened, not more than ¼-inch clearance above floor level. Openings may not be over 1 inch.
  • Where material is piled to such height that a standard toeboard does not provide protection, paneling from floor to intermediate rail, or to top rail shall be provided.

 

Stairways

  • Every flight of stairs having four or more risers shall be equipped with standard stair railings or standard handrails.

 

Open-Sided Floors

  • Every open-sided floor or platform 4 feet or more guarded on all open sides except where there is entrance to a ramp, stairway or fixed ladder.
  • Railings shall be provided with a toeboard wherever: persons can pass, moving machinery exists, or where there is equipment with which falling materials could create a hazard, beneath the open sides.
  • All open sided floors, walkways, platforms, or runways above or adjacent to dangerous equipment, guarded with a standard railing and toe board.

 

Wall Openings                     

  • Wall openings from which there is a drop of more than 4 feet must be guarded by a rail, roller, picket fence, half door or equivalent barrier.

 

Floor Openings

  • Whenever workers must feed material into any hatchway or chute opening, protection shall be provided to prevent a person from falling through the opening.
  • Every stairway floor opening must be guarded by a standard railing
  • Employer must ensure that railing is provided on all exposed sides, except at the stairway entrance.
  • Ladder way floor openings and platforms must be guarded by a standard railing with a standard toeboard on all exposed sides, except at the opening’s entrance, with the passage through the railing either provided with a swinging gate or so offset that a person cannot walk directly into the opening.
  • Pits and trapdoor floor openings must be guarded by a floor opening cover of standard strength and construction.
  • While the cover is not in place, the pit or the trap opening constantly attended by someone or protected on all exposed sides by removable standard railings.
  • Every temporary floor openings must have standard railings, or shall be constantly attended by someone.
  • All floor holes that a person could accidentally walk into must be guarded by either a standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides, or a floor hole cover of standard strength and construction. While the cover is not in place, the floor hole shall be constantly attended by someone or shall be protected by a removable standard railing.

Aisles

  • Permanent aisles and passageways shall be appropriately marked.
  • Sufficient safe clearance must be maintained where mechanical handling equipment is used.
  • Aisles and passageways must be kept clear and in good repair.
  • There may be no obstruction across or in aisles that could create a hazard

Housekeeping

  • All places of employment must be kept clean, orderly and in a sanitary condition.
  • Workrooms must be kept clean and dry
  • Platforms, mats, or other dry standing places must be provided for wet process work areas.

 

 

Prevention Tips

Slips occur when an unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the worker’s feet and the walking surface. Good housekeeping, shoe selection, walking surface maintenance and employee preparedness all play an important role in slip / fall prevention.

We have listed some industry best practices below to help you remain vigilant and free of falls in the workplace; we hope that our advice helps to raise awareness for slips, trips and fall injuries, and we hope that we help to people stay safe.

 

 

Housekeeping

Slips, Trips & Falls – Public Enemy No.1

Companies who practice good housekeeping have slip and fall injuries than the ones who pay less attention to maintaining a clean and safe walking / working environment.

 

Your company can reduce slips and falls by following the following best practices:

  • Clean all spills immediately.
  • Mark spills and wet areas immediately with wet floor signage – block off area with caution tape if necessary.
  • Keep floor free of debris (sweep and mop frequently)
  • Mop floors during low traffic times, or when workers are on break to allow proper drying time.
  • Remove obstacles from walkways
  • Keep walkways free from clutter (including tools and jobsite materials)
  • Rugs & Carpeting – make sure edges that do not lay flat are taped down
  • Cabinets & Doors – keep doors closed at all times
  • Cables that cross walkways must be covered at all times
  • Working areas and walkways must be kept well lit
  • Replace faulty switches and burnt-out light bulbs immediately – improper lighting conditions may contribute to existing hazards and may prevent workers from noticing slip and trip hazards.

The most advanced flooring systems and the best non-slip shoes will not prevent slips and falls if good housekeeping practices are not a part of the culture. Maintaining a clean and tidy workplace should become such a routine practice, that cleaning becomes second nature. Every team member must participate in the advancement of good housekeeping.

 

Flooring

  • Improperly maintained walking surfaces have the potential to cause slips and falls despite the best housekeeping habits. The following measures can be taken to add an additional level of protection against slips and falls.
  • Recoat or replace flooring
  • Install non-slip mats
  • Install pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive filled paint-on coating and metal or synthetic decking.

 

Footwear

Some work environments are slippery by nature, so extra care must be taken to prevent slips. For example, work environments that are oily or wet, or where workers spend considerable time outdoors have a reputation for being more slippery.

There is no shoe that works best for every scenario, so you should pay close attention to the nature of your specific workplace – and be sure to check the manufacture’s recommendation for what shoe is best for your particular workplace.

 

You can also reduce the risk of slipping on wet floor by:

  • Taking your time while walking
  • Pay attention to where you are going
  • Make wide turns at corners
  • Walk with your feel pointed slightly out
  • Adjust your cadence for the condition.

 

You can reduce the risk of tripping by:

  • Keep walking area free from debris, tools and materials
  • Keep flooring in good condition
  • Make sure the work area is well-lit
  • Be sure not to carry items that are too bulky or too heavy

Delayed Compliance Dates:

Although the final rule became effective on January 17, 2017, but some parts of the final rule have a delayed, or phased-in, compliance dates.

May 17, 2017 – Training workers on fall and equipment hazards

November 20, 2017 – Inspection and certification of permanent building achorages

November 19, 2018 – Installation of fall protection (personal fall arrest systems, ladder safety systems, cages, wells) on existing fixed ladders (over 24 feet) that do not have any fall protection

November 19, 2018 –Installation of ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on new fixed ladders (over 24 feet) and replacement ladders/ladder sections

November 18, 2036 – Installation of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders (over 24 feet)

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