Slips, trips and falls are among the leading causes of injury on the job, often resulting in sprains or tears and multiple days away from work. While you might associate these dangers with jobs at a high elevation, they can happen in any workplace. From a small spill on the ground to an untidy workstation, the risks to you and your co-workers are everywhere. As inclement weather approaches and poses additional fall risks, use the following resources to keep yourself and others safe at work.
Most of us are on our feet at least some of the day, whether we’re walking a factory floor, through neighborhoods or just taking a break outside. All of that foot traffic increases the risk of a slip, trip or fall, and while they might seem minor, they can cause serious injury.
According to Injury Facts, falls generally go into two categories: falls on the same level and falls to a lower level. Falls to a lower level result in more fatalities while falls on the same level lead to more injuries. Either way, these are serious hazards to prepare for at work. According to NIOSH, work-related falls are more common among older workers, particularly falls to the same level. However, they can happen to anyone regardless of industry or job title, so everyone must take steps to recognize slip, trip and fall hazards.
Start by looking at your work area and the surrounding environment to understand your risks. Just because you are familiar with your work area and its typical hazards doesn’t mean something new won’t show up unexpectedly. A spill, a crack in the sidewalk or a stray cord can lead to a dangerous fall, so always take time to scan the area you are walking through and avoid carrying objects that block your vision.
Slips, trips and falls can happen anywhere, but certain environments and conditions pose greater risks. High-risk areas include doorways, ramps and cluttered hallways, as well as high-traffic areas. Pay close attention to signs warning about tripping hazards wherever you see them but expect them anywhere, even if no signs are posted.
When working outdoors, there are many additional risks to consider:
● Slick surfaces from rain, ice and spills
● Uneven terrain, like stairs, curbs, inclines and cracked pavement
● Extension cords, hoses, branches and other tripping hazards
Your work site may have unique, unexpected hazards, so always scan the area around you to stay aware. In addition to watching for hazards, it’s crucial to avoid distractions while walking. Devices, equipment and other people can all cause distractions, but cell phones are a major culprit. Everyone thinks they can multitask safely, but it only takes a second of distraction to lead to dangerous consequences. To avoid this risk:
● Avoid phone use while walking, especially near crosswalks, vehicles and high-traffic areas
● If you must check your phone, wait until you can stop, safely free up your hands and stand with your back to a wall or other solid object
● Never use your phone while entering or exiting your vehicle, as the distraction could lead to a slip, trip or fall
● Slow down and stay vigilant; the more rushed you are, the less focused you’ll be on staying safe
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers 10 safety tips for walking. Talk to your supervisor or safety manager if you have specific concerns about walking and working near vehicles or in traffic.
Whether inside or outside, wear slip-resistant shoes that provide proper ankle and heel support. Outdoor conditions can change suddenly; always check the weather forecast before heading out, bring appropriate personal protective equipment, and pay special attention to your balance in wet or slippery conditions.
When working at heights, be sure you have the correct ladder or scaffolding for the job. In areas with poor lighting, especially around corners and other areas with poor visibility, go slow and use extra caution to avoid tripping.
Regular housekeeping can alleviate many of the hazards that contribute to slips, trips and falls. You can greatly reduce risks to you and your co-workers by focusing on three main ideas:
● If you drop something, pick it up right away; don’t delay or expect someone else to take care of it
● If something spills, clean it up right away; if you need additional help, ask for it and be sure to mark the area with a warning sign so others can avoid the spill
● Go where you are looking and look where you are going; this is the best way to spot hazards and indicate to others where you plan to move
Review this video for more tips on preventing slips, trips and falls. Once you start looking for these hazards you’ll notice them everywhere, from a file drawer left open to papers on the floor of your vehicle. Take care of these issues whenever you see them, and report every slip, trip or fall you experience, no matter how minor it seems. This information can help your supervisor or safety professional take action to avoid future incidents and injuries.
Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 9-15, is a perfect time to review your fire prevention plans at home and work. To prepare, you should understand your fire risks, know how and when to use a fire extinguisher, and have a fire escape plan ready.
Some of the most common causes of workplace fires are things that we use every day, including heating sources, electricity and office machinery. An important part of fire prevention is to stop taking these things for granted. Learn about the ways both employers and employees can take proactive steps to prevent fires and keep themselves and their co-workers safe.
In both the workplace and at home, preparing for fires with the proper equipment, practice and planning can help ensure everyone’s safety. Have escape plans both at the office and in your home, and make sure you practice your routes. Install smoke alarms on each level of your home and inside each bedroom. Test them regularly, and replace batteries in both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors every year.
While it’s often safest to evacuate and let professionals handle a fire, if a fire is small and contained, and you can evacuate quickly, you might choose to extinguish it yourself. Every employee should know how to use a fire extinguisher.
Remember the acronym P.A.S.S. to operate it:
● Pull the pin
● Aim low, at the base of the fire
● Squeeze the handle slowly
● Sweep the nozzle from side to side
Think carefully about the placement of fire extinguishers in your workplace. Are they easily accessible? Can employees easily see them? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers guidelines on the most effective places to keep them.
Fires are a serious and all-too-common cause of injuries and deaths, both at work and at home. By engaging in fire prevention activities and preparing with escape plans, extinguishers and alarms, you can keep your co-workers, loved ones and yourself safe.