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Tips for preventing slips, trips and falls in the workplace

Slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall accidents are among the most disabling workplace accidents. According to a 2018 workplace safety index by Liberty Mutual insurance, these accidents are the second most common on-the-job accident causing disability. Slips and trips without falling can also injure workers and ranked No. 7 on the list.

Both slips and trips result from an unexpected change in the way the feet contact the ground.

Slips occur when there is a loss of traction in the walking surface, such as when the ground is wet or oily, when there are loose rugs or mats, or when the degree of traction changes from one area to another. Slips typically cause people to fall backward.

Trips commonly occur when the foot unexpectedly strikes an object, causing a loss of balance. This can be caused by clutter, carpet wrinkles, and uneven walking surfaces, and poor lighting or an obstructed view can exacerbate the problem. Trips often cause people to fall forward.

Housekeeping, correcting flooring issues and proper footwear prevent falls

When you're trying to prevent slips and trips, the most important task is proper housekeeping. Unless you keep your walking surfaces free of hazards, other preventative measures won't be effective. Moreover, leaving hazards in place for too long can legally be considered negligence.

  • Keep all walkways and working areas well-lit. Replace burnt-out bulbs right away.
  • Survey areas for obstacles or clutter in walkways and remove those items.
  • Remind workers to keep file cabinets and storage drawers closed.
  • Tack or tape down rugs, carpets and mats to prevent wrinkles and flipped corners, and to prevent the item from moving.
  • Cover them or tape down cables that cross walkways.
  • Clean up all spills immediately. If one cannot be cleaned up immediately, mark it and post a warning sign.

Modifying your walking surfaces may be called for when slip and trip hazards can't be addressed by housekeeping. Consider installing abrasive strips or slip-resistant mats, recoating the floors or replacing them with resilient, non-slippery flooring. Some flooring can reduce fatigue, increasing safety.

Outdoor workers and those who work on oily or wet floors need appropriate footwear. Consult with the manufacturer to determine if the shoes have anti-slip properties that will work in your conditions. The right footwear can also reduce fatigue, which increases overall safety.

Finally, consider getting training on how to fall. To some extent, slipping and tripping are inevitable -- and one fall can lead to fear and stiffness, which can make a second fall worse. Falling properly can substantially reduce the severity of any injuries.

Workers who are injured in slip- or trip-and-fall accidents should consult with a workers' compensation attorney.

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