Slips, Trips and Falls In the Workplace
Almost one in five workplace
injuries is the result of a slip, trip or fall.
Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between
footwear and the walking surface. Trips happen when your foot collides with (strikes,
hits) an object causing you to lose your balance. Falls occur when you lose
contact with the walking or working surface. Falls can occur either on the same
level or from an elevated surface. Falls from an elevated surface are second
only to motor vehicle accidents in the cause of workplace fatalities. OSHA
currently is proposing new regulations for general industry relating to fall
protection devices and work on elevated levels. More specific information on
the proposed regulations can be found at www.osha.gov.
are many causal factors for slips, trips, and falls, such as ice, wet areas,
grease, loose flooring or carpeting, inattention to surroundings, uneven
scaffolding planking, clutter, worn rope on descent systems, open desk drawers
and filing cabinets, damaged ladder steps, and a more subtle cause--a belief
that the action being taken will not lead to an accident. For example, where a ladder
is not readily available, employees may improvise and use a chair, or even a
5-gallon bucket, as a way to reach a higher level. In fact, accident data show
that many falls could be prevented if existing OSHA regulations and recommended
safe practices were followed.
hazards generally can be grouped into three (often interrelated) factors:
equipment, human, and environmental. Examples of some equipment factors include
improper footwear, uneven surfaces, foreign substances on surfaces such as oil
or litter, and unguarded sides and edges of elevated platforms. Some human
factors are inattention, haste, human error, failure to follow instructions,
and fatigue. Environmental factors may include poor lighting and
weather-related conditions. The presence of multiple factors increases the
risk. For instance, a polished marble floor may not present a slipping hazard
to someone wearing rubber-soled shoes; however, when the floor is wet from
mopping or snow being tracked in from the outdoors, the risk of slipping
greatly increases. The addition of other factors such as poor lighting,
inattention, and haste are likely to further increase the risk.
and trips can lead to falls that cause injuries such as back strains or other
injuries when individuals try to “catch'' themselves. Falls on the same level
can cause injuries such as sprains, strains, fractures, and contusions that may
affect any area of the body and, on occasion, can be fatal. Falling from an
elevated surface increases injury severity and the likelihood of fatalities.
Falls from elevations occur in all industries, in all occupations, and in a
myriad of work settings--from the employee washing windows from a rope descent
system 40 feet from the ground, to the stock clerk retrieving goods from a shelf
using a 4-foot stepladder. These tasks represent only two of the numerous tasks
that can result in injury or death to employees caused by failures to recognize
fall hazards, to use fall protection equipment, or to take appropriate action
to abate fall hazards.
safety is everyone’s responsibility, the employer is required by OSHA standards
to ensure a safe work environment with sufficient tools and equipment to safely
perform work tasks. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the
work environment and tools are routinely inspected and defects are corrected as
soon as possible. Further, employers must train workers in how to safely
perform all aspects of their jobs and provide supervision to ensure that
employees follow directives. On the flip side, it is the responsibility of
employees to follow directives for safe job performance, watch for and report
hazards and ensure that they routinely maintain high housekeeping
At www.asa.net you can find a toolbox talk with specific steps you and your
employees can take to prevent slips, trips and falls. On this site is also a
relevant article and toolbox talk on housekeeping which is a fundamental
element in preventing slips, trips and falls.
preventing slips, trips and falls is an essential step on your path to an
effective safety program and will positively impact your productivity, the
health and well-being of your employees, and a better bottom line.
article was written in conjunction with participants in the OSHA and ASA
Alliance. It does not necessarily reflect the official views of OSHA or the
U.S. Department of Labor. This article provides general guidelines for
voluntary use by employers and is not intended to provide all necessary safety
information and precautions for specific workplace operations and situations.
ASA assumes no responsibility or liability for the use of the information
Path to Safety: Step 14
August 1, 2010