Slips, trips and falls are a leading cause of injury and death for workers. In fact, falls to a lower level are the second-most common cause of workplace death, surpassed only by highway crashes, according to
Injury Facts 2017.
Often, injuries sustained in a fall result in traumatic brain injuries and other long-term disabilities. Workers' compensation costs for falls averaged more than $45,000 per person in 2014, and
lack of proper fall protection remains the most frequently cited violation by OSHA.
Hundreds of construction workers die as a result of a fall every year – more than seven times the rate of other workers – and
42% of all construction industry fatalities involved falls. But it's not just construction workers who are at risk. Falls can happen in any industry – even sales, financial, retail and office work.
Safety at Heights tool kit, created by the NSC Construction & Utilities Division, provides valuable safety resources for
anyone working at height.
An Aging Workforce
As a person ages, the risk of death from slips, trips and falls
increases significantly. Older adults in the workforce, therefore, are at higher risk for on-the-job falls as well.
As more adults delay retirement, older adult deaths in general are on the rise. In 2016, workplace deaths of adults older than 55 reached their highest number – 1,848 – since the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries began tracking them in 1992, according to
The number of Americans 65 or older in the workforce
increased nearly 20% between 2000 and 2016, and fall-safety training for all age groups is essential to ensure the economic, cultural and physical health of a company and its employees.
The challenge for safety professionals is to find the best way to
deliver the safety message to older adults, who may have different communication preferences and varying levels of experience.
Physical Effects of Aging
There may be some physical challenges that can impact the safety of older workers on the job. The likelihood of a slip, trip or fall may be impacted by:
- Declining vision
- Declining balance
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased range of motion and flexibility
- Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or arthritis
Managers should continually evaluate employees' job descriptions to determine if accommodations or alternate schedules are needed.
According to OSHA, four risk categories affect slips, trips and falls:
- Work practices
- Individual behavior
Nothing has more impact on safety in the workplace than individual behavior. For example, how is it possible that something we do every day – walking – can result in serious injury in the workplace? It's often due to distraction. Employees should keep their heads up and phones put away when walking the aisles at work.
It's also important to identify hazards in the workplace before they become a problem, such as:
- Clutter on floors
- Poor lighting
- Unsecured cords
- Improper footwear
- Uneven surfaces
- Missing handrails on stairways
- Open drawers
Once a hazard is identified via a thorough assessment, follow up to ensure corrective action has been taken.
Falls are 100% Preventable
The good news is
slips, trips and falls are preventable.
Whether working from a ladder, pole, roof or scaffolding, it's important to assess the risk and use the right equipment. Is working from a height absolutely necessary, or is there is another way to do the task safely? If you must work from height:
- Determine what safety equipment is needed
- Make sure employees are trained on using the equipment
- Scan the work area for hazards before starting the job
- Set up the equipment on level ground
- Never work outside in inclement weather
- Use the correct tool for the job
- Ensure stepladders lock to hold the front and back open
- Always keep two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand on the ladder
- Place the ladder on a solid surface and never lean it against an unstable surface
- A straight or extension ladder should be 1 foot from the surface it rests on for every 4 feet of height and extend at least 3 feet over the top edge
- Securely fasten straight and extension ladders to an upper support
- Wear slip-resistant shoes and don't stand higher than the third rung from the top
- Don't lean or reach while on a ladder, and have someone support the bottom
- Never use old or damaged equipment
Bring Safety Home
National Safety Council,
National Council on Aging and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide lots of information and simple steps to prevent older adult falls at home – and anywhere.
Practice ladder safety when tackling home repairs (better yet, call a handyman)
- Provide a home fall-prevention assessment; check for clutter, furniture arrangement, grab bars and handrails, and any hazards that might cause a trip or fall
- Talk to your doctor to evaluate your risk for falling and things you can do; some medications might make you dizzy or sleepy, increasing risk
- Do strength and balance exercises
Use our Safety Checkup tool to get your personal Safety Snapshot