Military Fall Prevention Strategies
The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Navy all report that falls have historically been one of the main causes of hospitalization and a leading cause of non-battle injuries in military operations overseas. The Air Force reports that from 2012-2016, their personnel were involved in almost 3,500 non-sports related falls, resulting in more than 42,000 lost days of work. More significantly, there were 13 fatalities during this same time. What can be done to address this problem throughout the military? Many military slip and fall accidents can easily be prevented through proper compliance, improved fall prevention training, and following basic safety practices, including maintaining situational awareness. The good news is that many sectors of the military are already on the forefront of educating their teams and implementing proper fall prevention strategies and products. This includes taking part in upcoming events like the Mega Rust Naval Corrosion Conference and OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down Week, as well as implementing military-grade anti-slip tapes and treads, egress path markings, and safety signs in areas highly susceptible to slips and falls. To create a sound strategy for fall prevention, learn the areas and activities common to military members falling, the resources available to prevent military slip and fall accidents, and proven products available to you.
It is well known that fall-related injuries or slips are more common on wet surfaces. For members in any military sector, especially those in the Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy, this could be something they are dealing with on a day to day basis. The deck of the naval ship is one of the most accident prone areas to slips and falls within the military, as deck operations involve numerous risks and dangers that can easily make way to an accident. In order to preventing slipping while on a ship, apply military-grade peel-and-stick non-skid treads to decks, corridors, bulkhead hatches, and stairs. These grit covered adhesive tread products will also help provide a corrosion resistant surface for a damaged and worn naval ship decks or slippery steps.
On the ship deck, falls most commonly take place working on heights such as on masts, lashing bridges, hatch covers, cargo holds and working aloft or outboard. It is important to specifically address these areas in a fall prevention strategy by applying a military grade non slip tape or tread, properly train team members how to use the machinery and secure harnesses or other safety devices, and ensure they are aware of their surroundings. In rare cases, man overboard accidents occur on the ship deck as a result of an extreme slip or fall. The plan for this critical situation should be practiced by all team members, as it calls for an emergency response. Man overboard incidents mainly happen during ship-side activities such as ship washing, painting, or working outboard. The American Society of Naval Engineers is having their upcoming Mega Rust Naval Corrosion Conference which will also be a great resource for educating naval engineers on the latest in corrosion issues, solutions, and fall prevention products, such as peel-and-stick non-skid tapes and treads, available to the military.
Another common slip and fall-related injury within the military is when Army active duty personnel are entering or exiting their military transportation vehicles. Generally, the type of vehicle is a contributing factor (e.g., in 2011 light or medium high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), personally-owned vehicles, and (in deployments) mine resistant armor protected (MRAP) vehicles were most commonly associated with fall injuries.), as well as extreme fatigue or heavy load carriage. Understanding the reasons of these slip and fall accidents in military transportation vehicles is key to being able to create sound strategy for prevention. For example, the addition of stair treads to larger vehicles, such as Army Humvee treads, has proved to help considerably in fall prevention for entering and exiting. Ensuring that the personnel operating the vehicle are familiar with the design and height, especially for taller vehicles like MRAPs, should be taken into consideration. Training operators to be alert to hazards and ensuring proper contact with the vehicle at all times will also benefit in fall prevention. Slip resistant adhesives should be added inside certain vehicles depending on their size and intended use within the Army to prevent falls. With many military transportation vehicles subject to extreme weather conditions, resulting in wear and tear, you will want to make sure your adhesive products are high quality, water resistant and temperature resistant. Lastly, requiring all team members to have proper footwear with slip resistant footing should be mandatory. Being compliant with safety best practices, understanding the vehicle that is being operated, and becoming aware of your surroundings will help reduce the possibility of a fall in and around a military vehicle.
Some less known reasons for falls within the military are playing basketball and parachuting. These are two very different activities, but both are worth mentioning and highlighting some basic strategies for fall prevention. All sports, but especially basketball, which is one of the leading sports associated with fall-related injuries in the Army, should be played with proper athletic gear. Use of ankle braces if you have a history of fall-related ankle injuries and wearing proper non-skid athletic shoes are excellent means of slip and fall prevention. Stretching prior to any sporting activity will also aid in reducing injuries from accidental falls. Parachuting for military airborne training is another leading activity associated with falling in the Army. Generally due to improper landing, studies show that outside-of-the-boot ankle braces restrict ankle injuries during Army parachuting and aide in fall prevention.
With OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down Week approaching in May, it is an excellent time to review your current military fall prevention strategies. A Safety Stand-Down is a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to employees about safety and historically has been well attended by all sectors of the military to review current fall prevention strategies, discuss safety, and ensure proper protective methods are in place. The U.S. Air Force has been a key partner with OSHA in this effort, instructing members on fall prevention, reviewing aircraft slip procedures, and ensuring proper aircraft non slip tapes and treads are properly in place. In fact, the U.S. Air Force was the largest single participant in 2015 and 2016, reaching more than 1 million military and civilian personnel. A few suggestions the United States Department of Labor offers to prepare for a successful Safety Stand-Down include a review of your current military fall prevention program with some simple questions. This will help provide a more effective stand-down event with your team.
- What types of falls could happen from ladders, roofs, scaffolds, stairs, structural steel, floor openings? What about aircrafts, submarines, and various military transportation equipment as used by your team?
- What needs improvement? Is your program meeting its goals? Are employees aware of the military’s fall protection procedures?
- What training have you provided to your team? Does it need revision?
- What equipment have you provided to your team? Is better equipment available?
During the stand-down, encourage sharing past experiences of slips and falls, discussing preventative measures, and what improvements can be made to your current safety program. Some simple additions to your strategy could include a refresher in equipment training, checking floors to ensure non-skid tape is properly applied and in all the right places, ensuring proper warning signs are in place, and reviewing stairs for secured railings and stair treads.
Falls in the military are caused by a wide range of circumstances. Despite the fact that accidents can be avoided, from time to time, they still occur, holding the accident rates considerably high and steady. The best way to avoid ill-fated fall accidents is to establish criteria, requirements and best practices for a fall protection program, encourage a heightened awareness of one’s personal safety and maintain a good safety culture within your team. Proper protective equipment such as safety shoes, safety harnesses, and anti-slip tapes and treads, along with warning signs, lighting, and understanding the job or situation will all be extremely helpful in preventing military falls. When purchasing protective equipment such as non-slip and safety signage products, it is important to ensure the products comply with regulations set forth by OSHA, ADA, and ASTM. In addition to these items, you can avoid slips by cleaning up after work assignments, keep all walking areas free from clutter and slippery substances, following designated passages for walking, and simply understanding the nature of possible accidents prior commencing the job. Preventing fall injuries and fatalities in every workplace within the military through education and awareness keeps our men and women in uniform safe and mission ready.