Watch your step: Slip and falls injure all kinds of people and businesses


Watch your step: Slip and falls injure all kinds of people and businesses

Written by Cary Freed, ARM (Associate Risk Management) – SECURA Risk Management Consultant

Did you know that falls are a leading cause of injury and death in the U.S.?

More than 9 million people are seen by medical providers each year for slip and fall accidents and related injuries, and one-fifth of falls cause serious bodily harm like a broken bone or head injury. Sadly, most are preventable and could have been avoided with proper preparation and training.

In winter weather conditions, the stakes are even higher with wet floors and icy surfaces.  Businesses can help prevent slip and falls.

Proper footwear

Require associates to wear shoes or boots designed to provide traction on wet, slippery surfaces. Like other tools of the trade, slip resistant treads are vital equipment.

Direct foot traffic

Whether they are walking on a work site, a sidewalk, or an entryway, encourage people to walk on designated pathways as much as possible.  Shortcuts over snow piles, uneven areas, or spots where ice tends to form increase the risk of falls.

Use mats or slip-resistant floor treatments

Place quality, beveled edge mats in walking areas where snow and water accumulate, such as exterior doors.  Change mats regularly to ensure they are dry and servicable.  Consider applying a slip-resistant floor treatment for larger surface areas, like shop floors.

Take things slow

Encourage the use of slow, short steps to help people maintain their balance when walking on ice or other slippery surfaces.  Carrying equipment or materials can be especially dangerous as they affect a person’s center of gravity.

Aim for three points of contact in the parking lot

Encourage employees to use vehicles for support as they get in an dout, making sure they have three points of contact as they shift their balance and tentatively test footing before exiting the vehicle.

Maintain proper lighting

Black ice is tough to spot because the thin, transparent layers of ice look like the surface it covers.  Still, it’s simple to shed light on other slippery conditions like snow, slush, and even muddy areas.  Lighting is especially important where there are elevation changes, such as a flight of stairs or a step leading into a building.  Temporary lighting is important for worksites, as well.  For specific recommendations on lighting, refer to OSHA’s guidelines on illumination.

Stock up on supplies

Make sure you have an adequate supply of snow and ice removal tools and surface treatments on hand throughout the winter (shovels, salt, sand, deicer, etc.).  Train employees how to safely use them and make it a part of daily responsibilities as weather conditions warrant.  

Encourage exercise and a healthy lifestyle

Falls can be caused by a combination of factors, including a person’s health and overall wellness.  Age, dehydration, chronic pain, medication, weakened muscles, and a host of other physical conditions can contribute to a fall. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and encourage others to do the same.

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