Slips, trips, and falls can and do occur in all industries as well as in-home environments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018 slips, trips, and falls accounted for about 27% of the 900,380 nonfatal work injuries that resulted in days away from work. In Canada, about 18% of the days away from work were related to falls Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety, (CCOHS).
Falls can lead to death! The National Safety Council has compiled the following injury and death statistics by industry:
- Construction: 10,650 injuries, 320 deaths
- Production: 17,160 injuries, 39 deaths
- Transportation and Material Moving: 45,730 injuries, 82 deaths
- Farming, Fishing and Forestry: 4,380 injuries, 17 deaths
- Building and Grounds Maintenance: 16,880 injuries, 99 deaths
- Healthcare: 13,600 injuries, 3 deaths
There is even a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), dedicated to the reduction of slips, trips, and falls. The NFSI has produced the following educational video:
Making workers aware of the risks and hazards of slips, trip, and falls by including a section in each Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) should be a priority. When employers and employees are armed with the knowledge from these facts, statistics and organizations, they can greatly reduce injuries and fatalities related to slips, trips, and especially falls.
To get the Job Safety Analysis discussion started, a review of what is meant by slips, trips, and falls is appropriate. Slips and trips are similar but not identical, but both can lead to falls.
Slips can be defined as situations where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Slips occur because either the footwear and/or the walking surface is slippery. A prime example would be walking on an icy surface in the winter, such as walking across a parking lot with ice patches or going up ice covered steps to the entrance of a building. But there are many other situations that can cause a surface to be slippery including:
- Loose surfaces like tarps, boards, or other non-permanent surfaces
- Smooth surfaces such as metal, wood, tile, concrete, or plastic
- Wet surfaces, that are often the result of a spill such as water, mud, grease, oil, or other chemicals
- Dry surfaces caused by dirt, dust, or other slippery powders
- Uneven surfaces such as a slope or walking on vegetation
Trips are generally defined as when your foot or leg strikes or hits an object causing you to lose your balance. Some common items that can cause people to trip include:
- Cables and cords in the walking path and work zone
- Hoses and equipment in the walking / working path
- Items sticking out and into the walking area or walking path
- Clutter and debris
- Uneven walking surfaces and sidewalk to curb transitions
- Limited visibility
A slip or a trip can result in a fall. Falls are divided into two types, falls from the same level and falls from an elevated level. Falls from the same level are often caused by slips and trips and can cause serious injury, but falls from an elevated level often cause far greater injuries and even death. Some examples of falls hazards from an elevated level include:
- Docks and Ramps
- Ariel Lifts
- Roofs edges
- Sky Lights
- Working on top of equipment
- Openings in floors
- Openings in walls
- Openings in tanks
- Permanent and Temporary work platforms
Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) fall protection requirements can be found in a number of different sections in the federal code. Industry height and other specific requirements for fall pertection including:
- 4 feet for General Industry (CFR 29 1910)
- 5 feet for Shipyard Employment (CFR 29 1915)
- 6 feet for Construction work (CFR 29 1926)
- 8 feet for Longshoring (CFR 28 1918)
OSHA has a wealth of information about falls and fall protection. A good starting point to review OSHA requirements is to start here. Additional information regarding fall protection regulations and requirements for the construction industry are outlined on this OSHA link and for non-construction review this link. Your Job Safety Analysis should evaluate the appropriate OSHA requirements for your specific industry and job/task.
Slips, trips, and falls can be prevented with proper education, training, and continued awareness of these hazards. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published some tips for retail workers regarding slips, trips, and falls which can be used not only during the preparation of a Job Safety Analysis or Job Hazard Analyses, but also during tailgate or safety minute discussions.
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