Slips, Trips And Falls
Typical slip hazards:
- Smooth floor surfaces that are: –– Inherently slippery (e.g. polished marble), –– Wet because of spills or cleaning operations.
- Contamination of a floor with a slippery contaminant (e.g. oil or leaves).
- Frost and ice (e.g. outside pavements in winter or the floor in a freezer).
Note that a person’s footwear can make a big difference to how vulnerable they are to slipping on a floor.
Typical trip hazards:
- Uneven or loose floor surfaces (e.g. broken paving slab; poorly-laid floor mat).
- Trailing cables (e.g. the cord of a vacuum cleaner).
- Objects on the floor (e.g. a bag left on the floor).
Note that people frequently ‘trip over their own feet’.
When people slip or trip, they often (although not always) fall to the floor. Though falls on the same level do not always lead to serious injury, they may well lead to broken bones (especially in the hand, wrist or arm).
Steps and stairs are places of particular concern because they are locations where slip, trip and fall accidents can occur more frequently and the consequences of such accidents can be more serious.
Both slips and trips result from some a kind of unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. This fact shows that good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear, and appropriate pace of walking are critical for preventing fall incidents.
Good housekeeping is the first and the most important (fundamental) level of preventing falls due to slips and trips. It includes:
- cleaning all spills immediately
- marking spills and wet areas
- mopping or sweeping debris from floors
- removing obstacles from walkways and always keeping walkways free of clutter
- securing (tacking, taping, etc.) mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat
- always closing file cabinet or storage drawers
- covering cables that cross walkways
- keeping working areas and walkways well lit
- replacing used light bulbs and faulty switches
Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measures such as installation of sophisticated flooring, specialty footwear or training on techniques of walking and safe falling will never be fully effective.
Changing or modifying walking surfaces is the next level of preventing slip and trips. Recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating and metal or synthetic decking can further improve safety and reduce risk of falling. However, it is critical to remember that high-tech flooring requires good housekeeping as much as any other flooring. In addition, resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip prevention measures.
In workplaces where floors may be oily or wet or where workers spend considerable time outdoors, prevention of fall incidents should focus on selecting proper footwear. Since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, consultation with manufacturers’ is highly recommended.
Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which, in turn, improves safety for the employee. For more information on footwear visit the OSH Answers document on Safety Footwear.