Slip and fall prevention – need to know

Slips, trips and falls are among the most common causes of accidents in the workplace and could lead to serious injury, or even death. WANITA WALLACE finds out more

According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom, 37 percent of all reported injuries and 28 percent of all deaths in the workplace are as a result of a slips, trips or falls. On average, approximately 50 people die each year from a slip, a trip or a fall and many more are seriously injured.

Greg Boswarva, the owner of Supersafe Systems, says that workplace injuries constitute a high proportion of risk. People in clerical and administrative occupations suffer 14,41 percent of all reported occupational health and safety accidents involving compensation claims.

Slips and trips

Slips and trips occur when there is too little traction or friction between the walking surface and footwear. Some common causes of slips are occasional spills, wet or oily surfaces, weather hazards and loose mats or rugs.

Trips happen when a person’s foot strikes or hits an object causing loss of balance that could result in a fall. Common causes of tripping include poor lighting, an obstructed view, cluttered floors, wrinkled carpeting, uncovered cables and uneven walking surfaces.

Boswarva adds that if the hazard cannot be removed then it should be controlled. Changing or modifying walking surfaces and stair treads is the next level of preventing slips and trips.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), workplace injuries caused by slips and trips can be prevented by modifying or changing walking surfaces. Replacing or recoating floors, installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips, or using abrasive-filled paint-on coatings can further improve safety aspects and reduce risk. Use of metal or synthetic decking should also be considered

Boswarva says it is critical to remember that hi-tech flooring and treads require as much good housekeeping as other flooring. In addition, resilient, non-slippery flooring and non-slip stair treads prevent or reduce foot fatigue and contribute to slip prevention measures.

Falls

Statistics show that 67 percent of falls are as a result of slips and trips, with about 30 percent of accidents involving falls from heights, according to the CCOHS.

Good organisation in the workplace is the first and most important aspect of preventing falls due to slips and trips. It includes cleaning all spills immediately; marking spills and wet areas; mopping and sweeping debris from floors; removing obstacles from walkways and always keeping walkways free of clutter or unsecured mats, rugs and carpets that do not lie flat.

It also includes closing filing cabinets or storage drawers, covering cables that cross walkways, ensuring working areas and walkways are well lit and replacing used light bulbs and faulty switches.

In workplaces where floors may be wet or oily, or where workers spend significant time outdoors, prevention of fall incidents should focus on selecting proper footwear. However, since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every working condition, it is advisable to consult with footwear manufacturers to ensure correct choices for particular applications.

Boots and shoes that fit properly can also prevent fatigue and increase comfort, thereby improving safety aspects for employees.

Falls from height

Working at height encompasses any workplace from which a person could fall, causing serious injury or death, if preventative safety measures are not in place.. The event might include, for example, falling from a step ladder or roof, or through an unguarded hole in the ground or floor. Fall protection may also be required when working above an open-top tank, bin, hopper or vat.

Other situations that may require fall protection include the use of forklift platforms; elevated work platforms; fixed suspended work platforms; swing staging; aerial devices, suspended equipment; or personnel carrying equipment such as lifting units raised by cranes or hoists.

Occupational health and safety laws generally require action when there is potential for a worker to fall about three metres, with most regulations requiring use of specific fall-protection measures before, or in addition to, personal protective equipment (PPE).

These measures generally include the use of fixed barriers such as handrails or guardrails; surface opening protection; warning barriers or control zones; as well as fall restraint, containment and arrest systems. There may also be specific legal requirements around use of equipment such as ladders and scaffolding.

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