Some of the most common sources of workplace injury come from falls due to slippery surfaces or cluttered work areas. Tens of thousands of workers are hurt in Canada alone due to fall accidents, and this represents a significant percentage of lost-time injuries.
The majority of workplace incidents can be categorized as same-level falls as opposed to falling from a height. They can be caused by a variety of factors including clutter and debris, slippery or uneven surfaces, obstructed pathways and unsuitable footwear. The good thing is that these are almost all entirely avoidable by following some simple guidelines.
Provincial Occupational Health & Safety associations require that employers take every reasonable precaution to protect workers, provide information and instruction and maintain a safe work environment. It’s always a good idea to refer to industry-specific regulations for details on legislative compliance.
Be sure to have a company policy in-place that addresses maintenance, lighting, housekeeping and inspections. In support of these rules, provide training, ensure that you maintain adequate supplies and equipment, and provide protocol for incident reporting and follow-up.
Same-level workplace falls are typically caused by some kind of unexpected change in the contact between your feet and the ground or walking surface. Slips happen when there is too little friction between your footwear and the surface under you, vs. trips which happen when you physically collide with an object. Examples include:
- Wet or oily surfaces
- Weather hazards
- Spills of wet or dry substances
- Loose flooring, rugs or mats
- Flooring or other surfaces that do not have the same degree of traction
- Obstructed pathway views
- Poor lighting
- Clutter & debris
- Wrinkled or folded carpeting
- Uncovered cables
- Bottom drawers not being closed
- Uneven walking surfaces
- Unsuitable footwear
- Sloped surfaces
- Transitioning from one floor type to another
- Missing or uneven floor tiles & bricks
- Missing handrails
- Ramps & gang-planks without skid-resistant surfaces
- Metal surfaces such as dock or construction plates
What You Can Do
Preventing falls in the workplace due to slips and trips takes some planning, but with a little diligence and attention to detail, you can help avoid future incidents.
Housekeeping & Maintenance
- Maintain a scheduled housekeeping program, including specifically assigned staff & well-defined responsibilities
- Clean all wet & dry spills immediately
- Clearly mark spills & wet areas
- Remove obstacles from walkways & work areas & always keep them free of clutter
- Remove snow & ice from parking lots & walkways
- Keep working areas & walkways well lit
- Install hand rails in trouble areas or where sloped flooring exists
- Cover cables that cross walkways
- Install caution signs in areas that may pose more of a risk
Flooring & Walking Surfaces
- Immediately repair or replace any areas where broken or missing flooring exists. This could include concrete, asphalt, brick, wood or floor tiles.
- Try and minimize the difference in flooring elevation between areas, and make the transition less extreme with threshold devices.
- Use moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges in entrance areas. Make sure that they have backing material that will not slide on the floor.
- Ensure that mats or rugs that may slip or do not lie flat, are taped or tacked into place to stay secure
- Use anti-skid paint or adhesive striping material in areas where there is a threat of potential slips
Personal Do’s & Don’ts
- Depending on your work environment, always be sure to wear suitable and approved anti-slip footwear. This could include specialty soles for industrial or manufacturing applications or heavier treads for outdoor job sites.
- Slow down and avoid rushing or taking risky shortcuts when you’re on-site or in parking areas or walkways
- Be considerate to your co-workers and avoid leaving boxes, tools, hoses, cords or any other trip hazards lying on the ground
- Pay attention to your surroundings and what may be underfoot. Try and avoid texting and walking if you can help it.
Preventing injuries from slips and falls should be a key goal of every safe and healthy workplace. Luckily, most all of these types of incidents are entirely avoidable.