With the multitude of hazards present in the workplace and the numerous safety regulations that require compliance, it’s easy to miss a common (but serious) danger. Slick, uneven or slippery surfaces in your facility can produce serious accidents and in some cases, fatal falls. You can reduce workplace injuries significantly by focusing on walking and working surfaces.
How Slips, Trips and Falls Affect Your Workplace
“Same level falls” (such as tripping or slipping) are a very frequent type of accident, constituting 65 percent of all fall injuries. Aside from fractures and contusion injuries, even when workers don’t actually fall down and strike the walking surface, the bodily reaction to tripping or slipping often causes back or overexertion injuries such as sprains, tears or strains.
While painful and incapacitating for the affected worker, these injuries represent a serious problem for management as well. According to estimates, average employer expenditures for a single overexertion or back injury may exceed$10,000 to $15,000 in direct costs for medical expense and absenteeism. When combined with the indirect costs, the financial toll for one injury can be quite phenomenal.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), indirect costs (such as production slowdowns, training replacement workers, and accident investigation and reporting) may be at least 2.5 times greater than the direct costs associated with a work injury.
In general, correcting walking and working surface hazards isn’t difficult. With vigilance and knowledge, you can minimize these incidents that trip up your safety record.
Understanding and Reducing Slips
To apply appropriate corrective measures, it’s important to differentiate between “trips” and “slips.” Although randomly interchanged, each word has a specific definition and requires unique prevention methods.
When minimal friction (or traction) between the shoe and the walking surface occurs, “slips” can transpire. Environmental conditions and inappropriate footwear are chief factors that cause slips.
Examples of Environmental Factors:
- Wet or muddy walking surfaces
- Spilled or pooling products on flooring
- Unequal degrees of traction in walking surfaces
- Floor mats or area rugs that are loose, sliding and unanchored
Worn soles, tennis shoes or standard “street shoes” are continual sources of slips on the job, as these types of footwear don’t provide enough traction in the working environment.
Dramatically reduce your employees’ risk of injury by selecting shoes that carry an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) rating for slip resistance, such as Wilkuro Non Slip Shoe Covers. These lightweight, cost effective, overshoes stretch over existing footwear and are ASTM F1677 MARK 2 Compliant, which indicates desirable slip-resistant qualities for various floor surfaces under wet and dry conditions in accordance with their chemical resistance chart.
Other tactics to reduce slips include:
- Keeping floors dry and clean.
- Posting signage and an awareness barrier (pylons) when floors are being washed.
- Installing mats or rugs with rubber grips.
- Practicing good housekeeping throughout the plant, which includes requiring spills to be cleaned promptly.
- Providing platforms, nonslip mats or dry standing areas in manufacturing areas that create wet or oily processes.
Understanding and Reducing Trips
When a foot collides with an object and causes the individual to lose balance and fall, a “trip” has occurred. According to various studies, only a slight difference (3/8 inch) in walking surfaces can constitute a trip hazard. Therefore, reducing clutter, improving housekeeping and maintaining well-lit areas can greatly minimize workplace tripping incidents.
Examples of Methods to Reduce Trips Include:
- Secure mats, rugs or carpets so these items lay flat.
- Add additional outlets so electrical cords are not distributed across aisles.
- Tape or secure cables and electrical cords that must cross aisle ways. Keep these well-marked so workers and visitors are aware of the hazard.
- Guard holes or floor openings to prevent stumbling or trips into these areas.
- Provide slip-resistant tread on stair steps and mark the edges of each step clearly.
Always perform a thorough investigation following any walking and working surface accidents to determine whether the incident was a “slip” or a “trip” (or a combination of both). Once you understand the difference between slips and trips, it’s easier to apply appropriate corrective measures to prevent further injuries and incidents.