Slips, trips and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents, cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.
With those stark realities, any employer that fails to guard against these preventable accidents is asking for an injury to occur. And despite all of American employers’ best efforts, slips trips and falls:
- Result in more than 95 million lost work days per year (or about 65% of all work days lost).
- Account for nearly 25% of all reported injury claims every year.
- Accounted for a 17% increase in the number of deaths from such accidents in 2018, compared to the prior year.
Obviously, there is a disconnect between employer safety measures and the outcome.
A December 2018 survey of almost 1,300 safety professionals, carried out by Safety Daily Advisors, found the “big three” causes of slip, trip and fall incidents are:
- Human factors – 54%
- Wet or slippery surfaces – 25%
- Poor housekeeping – 16%
While you can put in place stringent safety procedures, require fall-protection equipment and install non-skid surfaces, there is one thing that is hard to control: the human factor.
That’s why it’s important to instill in workers the importance of:
- Immediately cleaning up spills,
- Closing file drawers when done,
- Picking up loose items from the floor,
- Keeping aisles and walkways free from clutter, and
- Keeping their personal workspace clean and orderly.
But it doesn’t pay to tell them once. Regular reminders can help instill safety mindedness like the above.
Slippery surfaces a major challenge
Slippery surfaces are one of the biggest challenges a business faces in protecting its employees – and customers, for that matter. It’s important, then, that you know in which types of area slippery surfaces are likely to occur. You should pay special attention to these high-risk areas:
- Parking lots, especially in areas where water is pooling,
- Food preparation areas, where grease and water can cause hazards, and
- Non-carpeted entryways or lobbies.
Conduct walkway audits to identify safety issues, so that you can develop plans to eliminate them. The plans need to account for varying weather conditions.
Besides those physical aspects, also remind employees to wear proper shoes when it’s raining and not to rush when walking in those areas during rainy days.
The problem is that walking is something we do almost automatically and these days many people are distracted, reading and texting on their smartphones while walking, or maybe lost in thought about their weekend plans.
Distraction results in blindness to their surroundings. Moreover, their emotions, sense of urgency, fatigue or complacency can take over.
But training your employees to be more mindful in areas with slip, trip and fall hazards is not as simple as telling them to “pay attention” or “don’t get distracted.”
Behavior-based safety approach
Changing behavior is not easy and it takes time and commitment, but the best solution is a behavior-based safety approach.
The first step you need to take is to help your employees become aware of unsafe habits and analyze their mistakes. They should:
- Walk with caution and make wide turns at corners.
- Test footing before committing weight.
- Open doors with caution.
- Use railings on stairs.
- Ensure there are three points of contact on ladders and equipment.
- Look before moving.
- Wear appropriate footwear.
- Be aware of weather forecasts.
- Push (rather than pull) carts to allow a better line of sight.
- Keep eyes and mind on the task in hand; no multitasking.
- Not text or talk on phone while walking.
- Be alert for trip hazards.
- Recognize dangers of walking on ice.
- Take designated walkways, rather than shortcuts.
- Not wear sunglasses in low-light areas.
- Report all potential hazards.
It will take time and effort to change employees’ perception of risk and personal responsibility. But with a proactive approach that builds a culture and fosters an attitude and behavior that puts safety first, workplace injuries will be reduced.
On your end, you can:
- Implement good housekeeping practices.
- Provide proper lighting, traction aids and require safe footwear.
- Keep walking surfaces clean and in good repair.
- Install railings and guards.
- Display warning signs in high-risk areas (‘slippery when wet’-type signs).
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