Must Read for Building Owners: 3 Easy Steps to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls
A slip or fall can happen to anyone, no matter their age or ability. As a building owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that those entering your location are safe to the best of your ability. In some cases local, state, and federal regulations dictate what is required in your building to provide a safe environment for your employees and guests. In other cases, it is your intuition and observations that can help prevent accidents from occurring. Slip and fall accidents within buildings are unfortunately all too common. It may come as a surprise that unintentional falls are consistently among the top five leading causes of death. In 2015, 33,381 people in the U.S. died from unintentional falls – and for working adults, depending on the industry they are in, falls can be the leading cause of death. For others, suffering injuries such as sprained or broken wrists, ankles, hip fractures, or even a back or head injury is not uncommon. Falls can be 100% preventable. Whether walking the stairs of your building, workers finding themselves repairing your roof or working on scaffolding, or simply washing hands in the restroom of your building- it is important to plan ahead, assess the risk, and review the equipment you are using. By implementing a Plan, Assess, Review strategy you will be headed in the right direction to prevent slips, trips, and falls in your building.
1. PLAN AHEAD
Planning ahead prevents a lot potential issues down the line. First, as a building owner, you should understand the difference between slips and trips so you can properly plan ahead for each of them. A slip will occur when there is not enough friction or traction between a person’s foot and the surface they are walking on. Trips will happen when a foot strikes an object and causes the person to lose their balance. Either a slip or trip can lead to an unfortunate fall.
PLAN AHEAD TO PREVENT TRIPS, SLIPS, AND FALLS: By putting a plan and process in place to prevent slips, trips, and falls you are protecting yourself and those entering your building. A few of the top planning tips that can easily be implemented are listed below.
- Keep floors and surfaces clear of clutter. Consider the ease and safety with which these surfaces can be navigated by people of diverse ages and abilities. At the end of every shift appoint one employee to review the areas and clean up.
- Repair any walking surfaces that are uneven, have protruding nails or boards, or changes in floor height before allowing people to enter that space.
- Maintain good lighting indoors and out. Keep extra light bulbs easily accessible to employees. In deliberately darkened areas, consider installing floor-level illumination or egress path markings to define walkways, especially at steps, slopes, flooring transitions, or obstructions where falls are most likely to occur.
- Clean up spills immediately. If a spill can’t be cleaned up right away, place “Slippery When Wet” messaging tape in the area to warn of the potential hazard.
- Make sure workers are properly trained on any equipment they are required to use.
- Secure loose mats or rugs in advance and consider a color for them that will contrast with the surrounding flooring, so that people are forewarned of a change in surface, and are prepared to adjust their gait.
- If wet, rainy, or snowy weather occurs, make sure you have product like a de-icer or caution tape and a designated person in place to put them out in a timely fashion.
- Provide clean up supplies (paper towels, absorbent material, “wet floor” signs, etc) at convenient locations in the facility that all employees are aware of and can access.
2. ASSESS THE RISKS
By taking the time to evaluate your buliding and property grounds you will be able to find where potential slip, trip, and fall risks could arise. Pay special attention to high-traffic areas. Here is a few of the frequent offenders that pose a high risk:
- Stairs should be well maintained, equal in height, and with proper lighting. If you have stairs with more than three steps, be sure to provide a handrail. If you stairs are particularly steep, frequented often by elderly or children, in a dimly lit environment, or tend to get wet frequently it is highly recommended to apply non-slip stair treads.
- Entrance and exits should be kept clean, dry, and with a clear path to walk. Applying a non-slip tread or having mats or rugs securely placed on the floor to keep floors clean and dry is recommended.
- Restrooms are common offenders to slip and fall accidents because of the use of water. Consider implementing a sink and hand dryer combo and putting non-slip adhesive tread or griptape underneath the sink areas. Also, make sure handicap stalls have handrails securely in place. Appoint an employee to do regular restroom checks to maintain dry floors and if leaky toilets or faucets occur have a person fix them immediately or put up out of order/wet floor signage.
- Review surface and level changes. For example, flooring changing from carpet to marble or a single step into a new space or sloped walkway. Be sure to take measures to alert patrons of these areas with signage, handrails, or non-slip flooring or treads in place.
- Unusual features such as children’s play areas, pools, or areas with fountains should be assessed with special care.
3. REVIEW YOUR EQUIPMENT
By having the right equipment, tools, and products in place you will be helping to prevent falls in your place of business. Equipment, tools, and products should be checked regularly to ensure they are properly functioning and in some cases that you have enough in stock (e.g.: light bulbs, towels).
- Request employees wear sensible footwear for their jobs.
- Install handrails in all places with more than 3 stairs and ensure all handrails are securely fastened to the wall.
- Apply non-slip tape in the restroom, kitchen, or other areas with water present.
- All ramps, loading docks, and catwalks should have a non-slip tape applied to them.
- Non-slip tape should be used for areas requiring high slip resistance. Consider adding non-slip tape to heavy duty machinery, equipment, scaffolding, or ladders.
- If your building has showers or bath tubs, be sure to apply shower mats or bathtub mats. These should regularly be checked to ensure they are still slip resistant.
- Have mops, buckets, towels, “wet floor” signs, and additional light bulbs easily available for employees.
- Consider replacing slick floor material with surfaces having a higher coefficient of friction.
SPOTLIGHT ON EMPLOYEES & CONTRACTORS IN YOUR BUILDING: Slip and fall violations are addressed numerous times within the top 10 OSHA violations for 2017, including the addition of Fall Protection- Training Requirements (#9) to the list this year. It is imperative to protect not only patrons, but the workers in your building from potential slips and falls because they are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in the construction industry alone, 991 workers died on the job, with 38.7 percent of those fatalities resulting from falls which was the number one cause of death in the that industry. Some of the most common causes of slips include wet or oily walking surfaces, unaccounted for spills, or flooring that lacks traction. Tripping can occur for a variety of reasons, including cluttered walkways, dim lighting, uncovered wires, open drawers, or wrinkled carpeting or rugs. All of these are preventable. To reduce the risk of falling at work, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends encouraging workers to pay attention to their surroundings and walk at a pace that’s suitable for the surface being walked on and the task being performed.
Most of the suggested tips seem like common sense, but can easily be overlooked. By implementing a Plan, Assess, Review strategy you will be able to help prevent slips, trips, and falls in your building. With more than 8.7 million people injured from slip, trip and fall incidents every year in the United States, the threat is very real that one could occur in your building if you don’t take the time to prevent them with a few simple measures. Slips, trips, and falls that result in injury affect every aspect of your business, from employees to contractors, visitors and the public. Admittedly, some issues are beyond our control. Even the most responsible business owner who take time to carefully choose walking surfaces may still prove to slippery for some people and to grippy for others, depending on their footwear and walking style. Nonetheless, these tips still offer a variety of things you can do to create a safer walking environment for people of diverse ages and abilities entering your building.