Slips, trips, and falls (STFs) kill more than 21,000 Americans a year — more than from electrocution, drowning, and firearms incidents combined — at a cost of $60 billion to $80 billion (including medical bills, litigation, and insurance claims). They’re the leading cause of emergency room visits, nursing home admissions, and accidental deaths.
Across industries and across the years, STFs continue to be among the leading causes of workplace injury. According to OSHA, they account for the majority of general industry accidents (including back injuries, sprains and strains, contusions, and fractures) and 15% of all accidental deaths. The opportunities for workplace STFs are too numerous to mention. Slippery walking and working surfaces, leaks, debris left in walkways, uneven floors, protruding nails, bunched floor mats, and uneven step risers are among dozens of dangers your workers face.
Your employees know that falling is a hazard. However, knowledge alone isn’t enough to keep them on their feet. You need a program that identifies the problem, implements focused solutions, and monitors the results. To ensure that you’re doing all you should to keep your people on their feet, take these and other steps:
- If you have wet or oily processes, maintain drainage and provide false floors, platforms, nonsolid mats, or other dry places where possible.
- Use nonskid waxes and grit-coated surfaces in slippery areas.
- Require slip-resistant footwear.
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Use smart housekeeping strategies, such as cleaning one side of a walkway at a time.
- Provide floor plugs so that power cords don’t run across pathways.
- Keep aisles and passageways clear at all times.
- Reinstall or stretch carpets that bulge or have become bunched.
- Provide good lighting for all halls and stairwells, especially at night.
- Provide proper handrails and slip-resistant stair treads.
- Train workers to use handrails, avoid undue speed, and maintain a clear view of the stairs ahead of them.
Focus on employee awareness and participation in your STF program. For example, BJF Healthcare (St. Louis, MO) started to see the benefits of its STF efforts once it found ways to get employees to become actively involved. To encourage participation, BJF ran a “Get a Grip on Your Slips” campaign during which employees called a hotline to report what they had don to prevent themselves or a co-worker from falling. By calling the hotline, employees automatically became eligible for a drawing for a prize. The company’s “Save Yourself a Trip” program motivated employees to come up with anti-trip and fall strategies and to share them with co-workers.