Slips Trips Falls


There are over 500,000 slip and fall injuries every year in North America that require hospital care.  Slip and fall injuries are the second leading cause of accidental death and disability after transportation accidents.  In certain industries such as hotels, restaurants, public buildings and hospitals slips and falls are the number one cause of accidents. There are hundreds of thousands more slips, falls and near misses that go unreported or result in insignificant injuries.  Slips and falls account for over 17,000 fatalities per year in the United States.  This correlates to approximately 46 deaths per day as a result of a slip, trip or fall.  Aside from the economical loss resulting from these accidents; such as time lost from work, reduced productivity, worker’s compensation claims, insurance premium increases, the emotional loss from losing a loved one or having a debilitating injury, can be life altering.  From an economic standpoint trip and fall injuries cost the US 36 billion dollars annually.  Fortunately slips, trips and falls can be prevented by focusing more attention on prevention rather than compensation.

In the Construction industry it has been reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that one in ten construction site workers are injured every year.  OSHA also reports that slips and falls are the leading cause of injury in the construction industry. Statistics illustrate that nearly 70% of falls occur at flat and level surfaces resulting from a slip or trip incident.  The common types of injuries attributed to slip and falls are fractures, abrasions, and lacerations causing injury to the back, elbow, shoulder, ankle, knee and lower back.  Slips and trips happen when there is insufficient friction between the floor surface and the footwear.  Hazards are present both on construction sites and in everyday situations that can contribute to a slip and fall event.  Some of the more common hazards are:

  • Contaminants on the floor
  • Indoor and outdoor walking surface irregularities
  • Weather conditions contributing to increased friction such as ice or rain
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Obstructed view
  • Inconsistent stair treads or risers
  • Wrinkled carpeting
  • Tripping hazards such as loose cords, hoses or wires; and
  • Contaminants on the floor is the leading cause of slip and fall accidents. Contaminants include things such as grease, oil, food, water or another fluid. Fluids or other contaminants increase the friction between the walking surface and footwear.

There are many ways to reduce the friction between the floor surface and a worker’s footwear.  Things such as good housekeeping, proper floor cleaning and slip resistant shoes can help to minimize the risk of slipping.  Aside from good housekeeping and maintenance activities is the necessity to develop a comprehensive Slip Trip and Fall (STF) prevention program.  Studies performed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have shown that implementing an STF prevention program can lead to significant declines in worker injuries occurrences of slips and falls.  The objective of implementing a slip, trip and fall prevention program is to ensure they don’t happen in the first place.  Some aspects of a good program are to examine the past trends and data regarding how the slips and falls occur at any given facility or site.  Employee communication and training can greatly increase the awareness and recognition of hazards that lead to falls.  Other aspects of a STF prevention program include:

  • Initiate and maintain a written maintenance program
  • Identify potential hazardous areas or conditions and attempt to eliminate exposure to such areas
  • Document near misses or close calls as they can be just as important for the prevention of future slips
  • Document and keep records of employee training and orient any new employees of hazards to watch for
  • Teach employees to continually monitor for hazards and correct or report any potential unsafe areas; and
  • Ensure lighting is sufficient and maintained for the task at hand

A worker in any industry can take steps to ensure a safe walking environment.  It should be encouraged by management for employees to look for and correct potential hazards.  Harnesses and other fall protection equipment should be worn where applicable.  If an employee sees a spill or contaminant, clean it up.  Ensure handrails on stairs are installed and functional.  In the construction industry guard rails and toe boards should be installed at all elevated surfaces.

Changing or modification of existing walking surfaces may help to add traction to prevent slips and trips.  Re-coating or replacing slippery floors, abrasive strips, concrete additives, floor runners, chemicals and abrasive strips are all means to improve traction and reduce the likeliness of a slip and fall accident.  The selection of proper footwear is another key to increase traction, especially in workplaces that may be oily or wet.

The goal of a good SFT program should be to eliminate the sources of the slip, trip or fall so that no one suffers the economic or emotional loss from such an event.  The reality is that the implementation of all the measures above may not be enough, and slips and trips are likely going to happen.  When a slip, trip or fall happens the building manager or owner is often left wondering how the accident occurred and what can be done to prevent another in the future.  CSMI has recognized a need to answer these questions.  One way to analyze these types of accidents is to measure the slip resistivity of the floor surface using what is called a tribometer.   A tribometer is an instrument that measures the coefficient of friction which is the friction force between two surfaces in contact.  A slip meter is the name given to a machine used to perform tests on friction and lubrication.  A proper slip meter can test any floor surface in relation to the forces that occur in human hip joints as one is walking.  This is also known as gait.  Based on our research of tribometry and slip meters the one that most accurately measures the coefficient of friction is the English XL VIT.  The English XL VIT is capable of measuring any floor surface, even when wet with water or another contaminant.  The English XL VIT slip meter can benefit a wide range of clients including insurance companies, contractors, property managers and attorneys.

There are building codes and standards in effect today that require floor surface slip resistance.  The purpose of the standards is to prevent slips and falls in the workplace.   One such standard is ASTM F1637 which states:

This practice covers design and construction guidelines and minimum maintenance criteria for new and existing buildings and structures. This practice is intended to provide reasonably safe walking surfaces for pedestrians wearing ordinary footwear. These guidelines may not be adequate for those with certain mobility impairments.

CSMI has two certified XL tribometrists on staff to assist in the analysis of slip and fall accidents.  In addition to this service CSMI can assist with facility measures to prevent slip and fall accidents from happening in the first place.  We perform company audits of current programs and hazard analysis to identify potential sources of slips, trips and falls.  We can assist in the development of an STF prevention program and provide ongoing monitoring and maintenance of the program.

Please see our website for further background regarding the English XL VIT slip meter.

References:

National Safety Council

Bureau of Labor Statistics

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Center for Disease Control

Department of Labor

OSHA

ANSI

ASTM

 

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