How to Reduce Falls in Military Facilities
Military facilities worldwide encounter slip and fall accidents from people doing various activities on premise. From simply carrying food items in the dining halls to working on aircraft carriers and slipping on lubricants, these falls result in injuries, lost days of work and increased costs. In fact, the Army reported in July 2018 that falls continue to be a leading cause of both inpatient (hospitalization) and outpatient Soldier injuries. Injuries sustained from falls generally include fractures, sprains, strains to legs, ankles and feet, or arms and wrist. On average, it is between 90-120 days of lost or restricted duty days for the person injured which ultimately means millions of dollars and thousands of lost work hours between all branches of the military each year. Military facilities report that the most common fall-related injuries occur when surfaces are wet or people stumble in walkways. Many of these incidents can be prevented by following basic military fall prevention strategies, slip and fall best practices and training military personnel to maintain situational awareness. Some simple tactics can include assessing your facility, reviewing logs of past fall locations and investing in slip-resistant flooring options for those areas with frequent falls reported. More specifically, it is best to review your military facility in depth to determine how to best focus your injury reduction efforts and then proceed with implementing products or fixing flooring to prevent falls.
With fall prevention a top priority throughout military facilities, some considerations to start with inside and outside when assessing the building and grounds include:
Poor drainage is a common reason for excess liquid on the grounds of military facilities, so ensuring that pipes align with drains, downspouts are directed away from foot traffic and drains are un-clogged can be simple, yet effective measures to prevent a slip and fall.
Walking Surface Irregularities:
Take an assessment of the military facility grounds, ideally with those who work there on a daily basis, to understand where flooring and outdoor areas might need repair. Common citations include:
- Buckled carpeting
- Broken tiles
- Cracks that need refilling— regular offenders are sidewalks and parking lots
- Areas that could use a ramp
- Lack of warning signs/visual cues regarding elevation changes
- Smooth flooring that is commonly exposed to water/grease
These should all be updated, fixed, or flooring replaced with rougher surfaces or military grade non-skid tape or stair treads.
- Stairs and Handrails:
Stairs commonly are the reason behind a fall, so making sure they are as safe as possible is important. People carrying things, talking on the phone or simply missing a step when racing to get from one floor to the next are some of the causes of common accidents that happen on stairs. By ensuring your military facility has stair safety products installed, such as non-skid stair tape. And rails in place when over four steps are in present (recommended though for less than four steps), adequate lighting and a proactive plan in place to ensure stairs are kept free of ice, snow, and water. Also, handrails need to be of proper height (34”-38”) and continuous. Handrails need to extend 12” beyond top step and one tread depth at the bottom and your military facility should have handrails on both sides of stairs >44” wide, 1 handrail on right side descending for stairs <44” wide. Consider using Glo Brite® photoluminescent tape on the handrails and steps to illuminate the steps when lighting is dim or there is a power outage.
In dimmer areas, it is recommended to install more light fixtures, especially around steps or sharp corners. When updating light fixtures, make sure to choose ones that emit light from all sides.
Elevated Working Surfaces:
Whenever feasible, ensure all elevated working surfaces 4 feet or higher have platforms, railings, and toeboards to provide permanent, secure access to raised maintenance areas and devices. Choosing a non-slip tape or another slip-resistant adhesive for these areas is beneficial.
In many cases, elements or unpredictable conditions could be the cause for a potential fall. Even though these are not always foreseen, with the proper precautions in place and training of your military staff, you will be able to help prevent a slip and fall. The top unpredictable conditions to consider when putting your fall prevention program in place include:
- Weather Conditions:
From rain to ice and snow, by having an aggressive program to quickly remove ice/snow and warn people of slippery conditions is important. Ensure you have staff assigned to these duties. Other parts of a fall prevention weather program should include distributing winter slip warnings (via email, text, bulletin), placing weather warnings on monitors throughout the military facility, offering a phone number to encourage people to report icy conditions to the maintenance department, placing labeled bins of ice melting chemicals with scoops and MSDS, and providing additional non-slip floor tape or mats near entrances.
Contaminants on the Floor:
Depending on the type of military facility, you may find that you have liquids commonly on your floors including water, grease, or lubricants. Make sure there are adequate cleanup materials available at appropriate locations. If the location is a commonplace to liquid, make sure to have signs and barriers posted, non-slip tape or treads in place, and provide walk-off mats. Secure mats from moving with tape and make sure all military personnel is always in slip-resistant shoes.
Keeping the military facility tidy is sometimes easier said than done. From clutter to electrical cords, hoses, wiring or tubing, make sure main walkways are clear. Consider installing wall-mounted hooks, hose spools or shelving if needed and cover cords with a beveled protective cover and tape them to the floor.
Improper use of floor mats is a common reason for trips that lead to falls. Ensure that the mats you are using are large enough to allow multiple footsteps and use a tape under your mats to keep them secure from moving. If you notice mats that are curled, ripped or worn, consider replacing them or use visual cues such as visual tape markers) to warn pedestrians. Jessup Manufacturing makes a Safety Track® Watch Your Step caution tape that would be a great addition to a fall prevention program.
Certain activities happening in military facilities are higher cause for slips and falls. When planning a fall prevention program, consider paying special attention to focusing your training on:
- Icy Conditions:
As mentioned earlier, when the weather offers snow and ice, it can become a hazard associated with a fall. In fact, it is one of the top three fall-related injuries for both non-deployed Active Duty Soldiers and Army Civilians. Review our comments above and if you are in an area where snow and ice are prevalent, be sure to train your team in proper procedures, the effectiveness of anti-slip footwear and potentially specific equipment training for snow and ice removal.
Entering or Exiting Vehicles:
Active duty Army personnel report entering or exiting non-moving vehicles as a top fall-related injury activity. The vehicle type is often a factor in these fall incidents, as well as fatigue and load carriage. Consider balancing loads, ensuring proper 3-point contact with the vehicle, making sure the steps of the vehicle have non-skid stair treads or tape and work with your team on being alert to the hazards of vehicles.
Specifically basketball. Basketball is one of the leading sports associated with fall-related injuries in the Army, including during deployments. Encouraging the use of ankle braces when participating in basketball is a proven effective means to reduce fall-related ankle injuries. Stretching and warming up beforehand can also be helpful when it comes to balance and fall prevention.
Numerous factors are in place when it comes to creating an effective program to reduce falls in military facilities and there are many different ways in which the military can reduce slip and falls accidents. In many cases, in order to reduce the amount of slip and falls, the military must implement a safety procedure and anti-slip flooring. Selecting a high traction non-slip tape is a great option for areas where harsh environmental or chemical conditions occur. A Military Grade non-skid peel-and-stick tape offers military facilities, vessels or air crafts a non-skid option that is capable of maintaining its initial qualities even after being exposed to gas, acids, hydroxides, antifreeze, diesel fuel, or other items. Jessup Manufacturing’s Safety Track® Military Grade non-skid tapes and treads are manufactured to the rigorous MIL-PRF-24667C Type XI standard and approved by NAVSEA.
Failure to choose a high-quality non-slip tape can result in delamination, loss of grit, cracking and chips. These can reduce the effectiveness of the non-slip tape, especially the traction it offers. The military facility might also choose to have an NFSI certified walkway auditor visit the location to help with the assessment and discuss slip and fall prevention options. Every military facility should train its teams on safety procedures, cleaning, and inspection operations to make them more aware of potential slip and fall hazards. These steps all play equal importance in establishing a credible fall prevention program because falls can have a long-term adverse impact to a Soldier’s career and medical readiness.