Slips, trips, and falls are a common cause of serious injury and death in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 300 fatal falls to a lower level out of over 900 construction fatalities per year. There is no need for falls to be a common injury, so the question is why they are so common?
Some of the more common hazards present on construction sites that can contribute to a slip, trip, and fall event are uneven or slippery surfaces, missing or lose flooring, poor weather conditions, or objects in the way.
However, for all the many reasons slips, trips, and falls happen, they are preventable. With proper safety training and awareness, employers can help reduce the risk of worker injuries and deaths.
Our goal, at O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm, is to advance the cause of safety for employees, visitors, members of the public and contractors. It’s important for construction workers to know how to recognize and prevent slip, trip, and fall hazards. Here’s how:
How to Prevent Falls Due to Slips and Trips?
Oftentimes, slips happen because of a loss of traction between the shoe and the walking surface. Trips can occur when a foot strikes an object and causes the person to lose their balance. Falls happen as result of slip or trip.
- Safety Training. Create a plan to ensure the job is done safely. This can include how the job will be done, what tasks will be completed and what safety equipment should be used. Awareness is always a huge factor in preventing slips, trips, and falls. Every employee needs to be trained on how to properly use and set job equipment and how to recognize safety hazards.
- Pay attention. Worker safety starts with being alert. They need to pay attention to their surroundings, report unsafe conditions and walk carefully through areas where slip, trip, and fall hazards are present.
- Check your light bulbs frequently and change burnt bulbs promptly. A properly lit workplace can mean the difference between a safe work area and a serious fall.
- Clean up spills immediately when they happen. If the spill can’t be cleaned up, be sure to place a wet floor sign out to warn workers. Utilize workplace products that can minimize accidents, such as moisture-absorbent and slip-resistant floor mats and wet floor signs.
- Keep walkways and hallways clear of clutter, debris, and obstacles, as these can easily cause trip and fall hazards.
- Wearing slip-resistant shoes can greatly help workers prevent slipping on wet surfaces. Having the right amount of friction is the key to a safe walking environment. While you can't control the surface environments, you can control what you walk on them with.
Prevention is better than the cure. A safe working environment can protect you and your employees from potentially serious injuries.
Types of Slip, Trip and Fall Injuries
The common variety of accidental injuries attributed to slips, trips, and falls are abrasions, fractures, and lacerations causing injury to the back, elbow, shoulder, ankle, and knee.
Head Injuries. Even an apparently minor head injury is a medical emergency. If workers fall and hit their heads, especially if there is swelling, bleeding, or even a brief loss of consciousness, they need immediate medical care. More serious traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can permanently alter the ability to function.
Cuts and Abrasions. Arm and leg abrasions are common, as are hip and head wounds.
If the impact of the fall is more than what the body can absorb, cuts and abrasions may rest atop more serious injuries, such as concussions and broken bones.
Spinal Cord Injuries. Spinal cord injuries occur when the spinal cord is either severed or compressed. These injuries are almost always life-threatening and demand immediate medical care, as well as ongoing treatment.
Broken Bones. There are a shocking number of fractures resulting from slips, trips, and falls that take place every year. Most common are fractures of the ankle, forearm, hand, hip, leg, pelvis, spine, and upper arm. The tissue surrounding the bones may also be damaged, requiring long-term therapy to prevent chronic pain and neuromuscular dysfunction.
At O'Brien & Zehnder Law Firm, we encourage you to value safe work practices and safety programs on the job.