Watch Your Step
Workplace Safety Division
Directorate of Assessments and Prevention
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
Each year, thousands of workers are injured in slip, trip and fall mishaps. By improving hazard awareness and correcting unsafe workplace conditions, workers can protect themselves from becoming an injury statistic.
Slips, trips and falls were the second-leading cause of nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses involving days away from work in 2013, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard (1910.22(a)) states that all workplaces should be “kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition.” The rule includes passageways, storerooms and service rooms. Floors should be clean and dry, and drainage should be present where “wet processes are used.”
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) states that slips occur when there is not enough friction or traction between people’s feet and the walking surface. Common reasons for slips include wet or oily floors, spills, loose or unanchored mats, and flooring that lacks the same degree of traction in all areas.
Trips happen when a foot strikes an object, causing a person to lose his or her balance. Workers trip for various reasons, including untidiness in walkways, poor lighting, exposed cables, drawers being left open, and wrinkled carpeting or rugs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that falls can happen in all occupational settings, and “circumstances associated with fall incidents in the work environment frequently involve slippery, cluttered or unstable walking/working surfaces; unprotected edges; floor holes and wall openings; unsafely positioned ladders; and misused fall protection.”
To reduce the risk of falling at work, CCOHS recommends workers pay attention to their surroundings and walk at a pace that’s suitable for the surface being walked on and the task being performed. Slips, trips and falls can result in sprains and strains, cuts and bruises, broken bones, and sometimes disability or death.
To avoid slips, trips and falls, CCOHS recommends focusing on three main prevention methods:
Housekeeping: Clean up spills as soon as they occur and mark slippery floors and surfaces with warning signs. Mop or sweep up debris from floors. Remove obstacles from walkways and secure mats and carpets with tape to ensure they remain flat. Close cabinets or drawers when not in use. Keep workplaces and walkways well-lit and replace burned-out light bulbs and faulty switches.
Flooring: Walking surfaces can be made safer by replacing dangerous or unsecure floors, installing mats or adding abrasive strips.
Proper footwear: In workplaces with oily or wet floors, or where workers spend a lot of time outdoors, proper footwear is important to prevent slipping and tripping. Because of the multiple hazardous conditions that exist, employers should consult with safety professionals to determine the best shoe for any particular job.
For more tips, visit https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/falls.html. For the OSHA Walking-Working Surfaces Standard, visit https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.22.