How to manage slip trip falls (STFs)

Workers in ‘lower risk’ occupations like office administration, suffer 14% of workplace injuries claimed from the SA Compensation Commissioner, some from slip trip falls (STFs).

Clerical and administrative occupations, like office workers, suffer 14.41% of all reported occupational health and safety accidents involving compensation claims.

Loss incidents involving office equipment make up 3.79% of all accidents (SA CC 2009).

SA Compensation Commissioner claims reveal a saga of constant losses in human life, quality of life, and suffering, related to production loss and skills loss, making the prevention of the STF component (14%) an imperative. Total CC claims in recent years are;
2007 -2008: 209 830 claims
2008 -2009: 203 711 claims
2009 -2010: 200 599 claims

Assessing Slip Trip Falls risks

The UK HSE recommends a five step approach to risk assessment in the workplace;

1. Inspect slip trip falls hazards around the workplace, including floor coverings and their condition, uneven floors, trailing cables and areas that are sometimes slippery due to spillages. Include outdoor areas, remembering that weather conditions may be a factor.

2. Determine whom could be harmed, and how. Who comes into the workplace? Are they at risk? Are some groups more at risk than others?

3. Consider the risks. Are there already measures in place to deal with some risks? Are floor coverings suitable for the area and the work carried out there? What cleaning and maintenance systems are in place? Are regular audits carried out? Are employees aware to keep traffic routes clear?

4. Record your findings if you have five or more employees. Use standardised Risk Assessment Forms, and follow the example of  completed risk assessments.

5. Review the assessment if significant changes take place, to assess if precautions remain relevant to the risks. To help Sheq people complete a slips and trips assessment, the UK HSE have developed a free Slip Assessment Tool (SAT).

Slips

Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Common causes of slips are:
•    wet or oily surfaces,
•    occasional spills,
•    weather hazards,
•    loose, unanchored rugs or mats, and
•    flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have same degree of traction in all areas.

Trips

Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes, hits) an object causing you to lose the balance and, eventually fall. Common causes of tripping are:
•    obstructed view,
•    poor lighting,
•    clutter in your way,
•    wrinkled carpeting,
•    uncovered cables,
•    bottom drawers not being closed, and
•    uneven (steps, thresholds) walking surfaces.

Slips and trips result from some a kind of unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. This shows that good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear, and appropriate pace of walking are critical for preventing fall accidents.

Housekeeping

Good housekeeping is the first and the most important (fundamental) level of preventing falls due to slips and trips. It includes:

•    cleaning all spills immediately,
•    marking spills and wet areas,
•    mopping or sweeping debris from floors,
•    removing obstacles from walkways and keeping them free of clutter,
•    securing (tacking, taping, etc.) mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat,
•    always closing file cabinet or storage drawers,
•    covering cables that cross walkways,
•    keeping working areas and walkways well lit,
•    replacing used light bulbs and faulty switches.

Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measures such as installation of sophisticated flooring, specialty footwear or training on techniques of walking and safe falling will never be fully effective.

Flooring

Changing or modifying walking surfaces is the next level of preventing slip and trips. Recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating and metal or synthetic decking can further improve safety and reduce risk of falling.

However, it is critical to remember that high-tech flooring requires good housekeeping as much as any other flooring. In addition, resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip prevention measures.

Awareness

It is important remembering that safety is everybody business. However, it is employers’ responsibility to provide safe work environment for all employees. Employees can improve their own safety too.

Reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring by:

•    taking your time and paying attention to where you are going,
•    adjusting your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing,
•    walking with the feet pointed slightly outward, and
•    making wide turns at corners.
You can reduce the risk of tripping by:
•    always using installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks
•    using a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light, and
ensuring that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills.

International Slip, Trip, Fall (STF) statistics reveal similar trends to SA statistics. Since there is no standardised format for interrogating or reporting incident and injury information, various items of data are reproduced below.

STF causes

-Age 40 marks the age when 55% of people have suffered injury from STF (USA NSC, BLS)
-Causes involving level surface STF are 60%, only 40% are falls from a height (UK HSE)
-Causes involving elevation lower than 10 feet, total 60% of STF incidents in Florida (USA Fla Comp)
-Causes involving level surfaces, total 70% of STF incidents (USA NSC, BLS)
-Causes of STF include staircases with steps height differences
-Causes of STF include trips over a mere 7.5mm rise in a walkway
-Cost in days lost due to STF total $104m per year in USA and Canada (USA NSC, BLS)
-Costs in indirect losses due to STF are three times greater than direct costs

STF fatalities

-Deaths form STF total 17 000 per year in USA (USA NSC, BLS)
-Deaths from STF on and off work totaled 21 600 in 2007 in USA (USA NSC)
-Deaths and death rates from STF have been increasing for several years (USA NSC 2008)
-Deaths and disability is mostly caused by traffic, secondly STF (USA NSC, BLS)
-Deaths cost $940 000 each in the USA, plus family loss and trauma (USA NSC, BLS)
-Deaths from STF claim more workers than any simgle type of job (USA NSC, BLS)

Agriculture STF injuries

-Injuries in agriculture from elevated falls, are 17% of total injuries (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries in agriculture due to floors are 76% (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries in agric fruit and veg production, from elevated falls, are 26% (USA Fla Comp
-Injuries in agric due to ladders, are 32% (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries in agric on level surfaces are 8% (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries in agric livestock jobs from STF on level surfaces, are 12% (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries in agric involving vehicle elevation and surfaces, are 25% (USA Fla Comp)

STF injuries

-Injuries are mostly due to STF in the UK (UK HSE)
-injuries causing emergency room visit are mostly due to STF (USA NSC, BLS)
-Injuries cost $28 000 in bills and lost wages (USA NSC, BLS)
-injuries from STF are mostly to body joints; back, wrist, elbow, shoulder, knee (USA NSC, BLS (USA NSC, BLS)
-Injuries from STF are the third largest cause of injuries (USA NSC, BLS)
-Injuries from STF causing emergency room visits total 27-million in 2006, more than all others (USA NSC)
-Injuries from STF causing lost time total 1.9-m, 50% of recorded injuries (BLS, 2008)
-Injuries from STF causing lost time total 15% (Canadian Comp)
-Injuries from STF disabling people total 25% in USA Florida agric in 1991 (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries from STF disabling workers total 20% (USA BLS)
-Injuries from STF rated major 35% (UK HSE)
-injuries from STF rated minor are mostly bruise or contusion (USA BLS)
-Injuries from STF rated serious, are 25% (USA NSC, BLS)
-injuries from STF rated sprain of strain from elevation total 52%, from level 46% (USA Fla Comp)
-Injuries from STF total 200 000 per year in USA, 2003 (USA BLS 2004)
-Injuries from STF total 60 000 workers per year in Canada (Canadian Comp)
-injuries from STF, recorded, total 3.8-m in 2007 (USA BLS 2008)
-Injuries rated significant are 1-m per year in USA (USA NSC, BLS)
-injury rated fractures from elevation are 19%, from level surfaces 10%s (USA BLS)
-Injury to backs total 76%; due to elevation 37%, due to level STF 29% (USA BLS)

Prevention

Contributing causes include poor lighting, wet and decaying leaves, tree seeds like acorns, rain water, cleaning agents, polish.

When fitting external paved areas ensure that the material used will be slip resistant when wet.

Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which are likely to become slippery when wet. Consider converting existing shortcuts into proper paths.

On new sites, before laying paths, think about how pedestrians are likely to move around the site. Putting the path in the right place from the start may save you money in the long term.

Many slip accidents happen at building entrances as people entering the building walk in rainwater. Fitting canopies of a good size over building entrances and in the right position can help to prevent this.

If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip.

Could work be arranged differently to remove some of the risks?

Ensure supervision, instruction and training to promote safe personal behaviour.
Consider vulnerable people such as the young and the old or people who may be inexperienced or have some impairment.

Floors

Use the right cleaning method to ensure that the floor’s grip is maintained.
Ensure that steps and slopes have good foot and hand holds and have no sudden changes.

Replace the floor surface with one that has better grip.

Select suitable footwear for the conditions, work and individual.

Suppliers of floor coverings ought to be able to provide you with information on their products’ coefficients of friction. For safe pedestrian walking on the level this should be 0.36 or higher.

If floor contaminants are likely then the coefficient of friction measurement should relate to the floor in that contaminated condition – it’s no good testing a clean and dry floor then expecting it to be slip resistant in the wet.

If you are putting down a new floor, try to find out about similar floors in use in real workplace situations.

Floor surface roughness (measured in microns or millionths of a metre) gives a reliable indicator of floor slipperiness. Research has shown that floors with good micro roughness can be cleaned to the same standard as smooth floors and should not conflict with hygiene requirements.

Floor etching

There are acid etch treatments which can be effective in improving the slip resistance of hard floors (such as tiles) in wet conditions however many of them use hydrofluoric acid and there are health risks associated with the application process. The life span of the treatments is generally extended by cleaning with a dilute version of the acid which may introduce ongoing health risks.

The acid works by dissolving part of the floor surface to provide greater surface roughness, and so has an effect on both appearance and lifespan. Problems can occur if the application is poor, the slip resistance often doesn’t actually change (usually given away by the lack of visual change) or where traffic level is high, the etched surface wears quickly and the surface returns to presenting a slip risk.

Signage

Warning people that a floor is wet – and therefore dangerously slippery – have a limited effect. Warning signs will only remain effective if they are properly used. If warning signs are always visible on areas which are clearly not being cleaned or drying they will quickly lose any effectiveness.

Physically exclude people from wet cleaning areas e.g. barriers, locking off an area. Clean during quiet hours. Clean in sections so there is always a dry path through the area.

Footwear and PPE

Footwear that is issued to try to control slip risks is classed as ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ (PPE). PPE should only be considered as a last resort, all efforts should be made to eliminate the root of the problem first.

Sometimes, despite all other efforts, it is still necessary, to consider using footwear to further control slip risks. In this case making an informed choice of footwear is important.

There is no universal standard for measuring the slip resistance performance of footwear. Footwear that performs well in one situation (e.g. wet conditions) might do no good at all in another environment (e.g. where there are food spillages). Two things can help you make the right choice.

Find out what other businesses similar to yours are using (and does it work?). See if you can get the suppliers to let you trial some footwear that you are considering issuing to see if it works in your particular environment.

In workplaces where floors may be oily or wet or where workers spend considerable time outdoors, prevention of fall accidents should focus on selecting proper footwear. Since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, consultation with manufacturers’ is highly recommended.

Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which, in turn, improves safety for the employee.

Shoes and boots

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there are 110,000 injuries each year to the feet and toes of United States workers, representing 19% of disabling work injuries.

The most important protection is to wear the proper footwear for your work and environment. In most agricultural occupations the shoes or boots should provide three major types of protection;

•    soles and heels should be slip-resistant
•    toe cap should resist crushing injuries
•    shoe should support ankle.

ANSI sets standards for shoes and boots. Never purchase work shoes that do not meet these standards. A typical ANSI rating could be 1-75 C-25. This means the toe will withstand 75 foot pounds of impact and 2,500 pounds of compression.

Chevron or cleat-designed soles are definitely the best for slippery situations because of the suction or squeezing action they provide. The softer soles are better for slippery indoor conditions; the harder, more rugged cleat-type sole is preferred for tough outdoor use.

Leather covering the foot and ankle portion of the foot is preferred in most work environments. However, when working in wet environments or around chemicals, oils, greases or pesticides, boots made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a blend of PVC and polyurethane, or neoprene should be used.

Rubber is satisfactory for wet conditions, but not with pesticides or petroleum products.

When purchasing work shoes or boots, it is best to purchase them from a reputable dealer who handles quality footwear. A dealer who is informed of your work and work environment will be able to provide the correct footwear for you.

Quality footwear for work is expensive; but not nearly as expensive or painful as broken foot bones or other injuries from a slip, trip or fall.

Profiled catwalks

Can metal profile surfaces such as chequer plate be used to improve grip on things like steps, platforms and walking surfaces on vehicles?

Work is still being done on trying to properly understand the performance and properties of these ‘profiled’ floor surfaces but it is becoming clear that they often do not have the slip resistance qualities that people expect.

Metal chequer plate is in widespread use such as on steps, gantries, vehicles and mobile work equipment. Experiences in practice indicate that metal profiles can be particularly slippery when wet.

Slipperiness of profiled metal surfaces is more closely linked to the surface micro roughness of the top surface of the cleats (often very low micro roughness) than any attributes of the cleat pattern, size and depth.

Mats

Entrance matting to remove rainwater from the feet of pedestrians entering buildings is generally a good idea. The matting needs to be big enough so that pedestrians place their feet on it several times before stepping off the other side onto a smooth floor.

It should be as close to the entrance as possible so that smooth floor surfaces are not exposed for people to step on before they get to the mat. It also needs to be sited in the direction that people actually walk when they enter the building – do they walk straight ahead or turn to move towards the reception desk?

Much entrance matting in place in buildings is actually designed to remove grit from shoes rather than dry them – is that what you have? Matting should be set into the floor so that it is level with the surrounding area, loose matting can become a trip hazard itself, it can also slip on the floor surface.

Having a good canopy outside the entrance can have a real effect on reducing the amount of water that gets walked into building entrances on people’s feet.
Entrance matting can become saturated during the course of the day, it then stops having any drying effect and might need to be replaced so take note if wet footprints are starting to appear on the floor beyond the matting.

Causes

The main causes of slips, trips and falls in the workplace are:
•    uneven floor surfaces
•    unsuitable floor coverings
•    wet floors
•    changes in levels
•    trailing cables
•    poor lighting
•    poor housekeeping

Spillages; Clean up spillages immediately. Use a cleaning agent if required. If the floor is wet, use appropriate signs to tell people the floor is still wet and that extra care is needed. Alternatively, use another route until the spillage or wetness is gone.
Trailing cables; place equipment to avoid cables crossing pedestrian routes and use cable guards to cover cables where required.

Types of Falls

Slips are primarily caused by a slippery surface and compounded by wearing the wrong footwear. In normal walking, two types of slips occur. The first of these occurs as the heel of the forward foot contacts the walking surface. Then, the front foot slips forward, and the person falls backward.

The second type of fall occurs when the rear foot slips backward. The force to move forward is on the sole of the rear foot. As the rear heal is lifted and the force moves forward to the front of the sole, the foot slips back and the person falls.

Traction

The force that allows you to walk without slipping is commonly referred to as “traction.” Common experience shows that dry concrete sidewalks have good traction, while icy surfaces or freshly waxed floors can have low traction. Technically, traction is measured as the “coefficient of friction.”

A higher coefficient of friction means more friction, and therefore more traction. The coefficient of friction depends on two things: the quality of both the walking surface and the soles of your shoes.

To prevent slips and falls, a high coefficient of friction (COF) between the shoe and walking surface is needed (Figure 1). On icy, wet, and oily surfaces, the COF can be as low as 0.10 with shoes that are not slip resistant. A COF of 0.40 to 0.50 or more is needed for excellent traction.

A brushed concrete surface and a rubber heel will often show a COF greater than 1.0. Leather soles on a wet smooth surface, such as ceramic tile or ice, may have a COF as low as 0.10.

Shoes with soft rubber soles and heels with rubber cleats provide a high coefficient of friction (COF).

Providing dry walking and working surfaces and slip-resistant footwear is the answer to slips and their resultant falls and injuries. Obviously, high heels, with minimal heel-to-surface contact, taps on heels, and shoes with leather or other hard, smooth-surfaced soles lead to slips, falls, and injuries.

Shoes with rubber cleated, soft soles and heels provide a high COF and are recommended for most agricultural work.

In work areas where the walking and working surface is likely to be slippery, non-skid strips or floor coatings should be used. Since a COF of 0.40 to 0.50 is preferred for walking and working surfaces, we should strive for a surface which provides a minimum of 50 percent of this friction. If the working surface is very slippery, no footwear will provide a safe COF.

Trip and Fall

Trips occur when the front foot strikes an object and is suddenly stopped. The upper body is then thrown forward, and a fall occurs.

Steps

Another type of working and walking surface fall is the “step and fall.” This occurs when the front foot lands on a surface lower than expected, such as when unexpectedly stepping off a curb in the dark. In this type of fall, the person normally falls forward.

A second type of step and fall occurs when one steps forward or down, and either the inside or outside of the foot lands on an object higher than the other side. The ankle turns, and one tends to fall forward and sideways.

Contributing Factors

Proper housekeeping in work and walking areas can contribute to safety and the prevention of falls. Not only is it important to maintain a safe working environment and walking surface, these areas must also be kept free of obstacles which can cause slips and trips.

One method which promotes good housekeeping in work environments is the painting of yellow lines to identify working and walking areas. These areas should never be obstructed by objects of any kind.

Adequate lighting to ensure proper vision is also important in the prevention of slips and falls. Moving from light to dark areas, or vice versa, can cause temporary vision problems that might be just enough to cause a person to slip on an oil spill or trip over a misplaced object.

Carrying an oversized object can also obstruct one’s vision and result in a slip or a trip. This is a particularly serious problem on stairs.

Behaviors that Lead to Falls

In addition to wearing the wrong footwear, there are specific behaviors which can lead to slips, trips, and falls.

Walking too fast or running can cause major problems. In normal walking, the most force is exerted when the heel strikes the ground, but in fast walking or running, one lands harder on the heel of the front foot and pushes harder off the sole of the rear foot; thus, a greater COF is required to prevent slips and falls. Rapid changes in direction create a similar problem.

Other problems that can lead to slips, trips, and falls are: distractions; not watching where one is going; carrying materials which obstruct view; wearing sunglasses in low-light areas; and failure to use handrails.

Elevated Falls

Generally, elevated falls are less frequent but more severe than same-level falls in the workplace. In Florida agriculture, 17 percent of all serious injuries are from elevated levels and eight percent are from same-level falls.

Falls from ladders while harvesting oranges and grapefruit are the major cause of elevated falls in Florida agriculture, but there are also significant numbers of falls from vehicles and equipment, loading docks, buildings and other structures.

Ladders

Ladders may be fixed or portable. They may be straight- extension- or step-ladders and may be manufactured from wood, metal, plastic, or fiberglass. They can be light-, medium-, heavy-, or extra-heavy-duty.

They can be two feet high (step-stools), 18 feet for extra-heavy-duty step-ladders, and 40 feet or longer for extension-type ladders.

The materials from which ladders are constructed have advantages and disadvantages in weight, durability, flexibility, conductivity, and strength.

The intended use of the ladder should determine the type purchased, and only American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved ladders should be used. One major caution is that metal ladders should never be used in locations in which the ladder or its user could come into contact with electricity.

A ladder should be long enough so that when it rests against the upper support the user can work with waist no higher than the top rung of the ladder or above the rung at which the siderails are resting against the upper support. This means that the top three rungs of a straight ladder, or the top two steps of a step-ladder, should never be used for the feet.

The lower ends of the siderails should be equipped with slip-resistant pads, particularly if the ladder is to be used on hard surfaces. The same is true for the upper ends of the siderails if they are to rest against a surface.

Ladders should be set at, or as near, a 4:1 angle as possible. That is, for each three or four feet of rise from the base to the upper resting edge of the ladder, the base should be one foot out from a vertical line from the upper resting edge of the ladder to the working surface.

If a ladder is leaning against a ledge that 20 feet off the ground, the base of the ladder should be five feet back from the wall. The base of the ladder must be firmly set so that there is no possibility of slippage or settling into soft ground.

The resting edge of the ladder should have both siderails in contact with the object (building or tree) it is against. When setting a ladder against a tree, set the ladder in the crotch of two limbs so that it cannot slide in either direction.

Whenever there is any question as to the stability of the ladder, additional effort should be made to stabilize the ladder as it is being climbed. Tying the top of the ladder to the supporting structure can also keep the ladder from slipping or sliding.

Ladders should be inspected before use: check for cracks, loose rungs, slivers, and sharp edges. Never paint ladders, as the paint can hide potentially dangerous conditions. Wooden ladders can be coated with linseed oil or an oil-based wood preservative to keep them from drying out and cracking. Allow ladders to dry thoroughly before using them or the rungs will be slippery.

Use a 4:1 ratio for setting ladders. Rungs and side rails of ladders must be kept free of oil, grease, and mud; they should be kept dry. Since the shoe has limited contact with the rung or step of a ladder, it is very important that both rungs and shoes have a high COF.

Only shoes with heels should be worn when climbing ladders; users should be taught that the rung or step of the ladder should be just in front of the heel, under the arch of the foot. Stepping or standing on a ladder with the front part of the shoe is inviting a slip and fall. Always face the ladder when climbing or descending.

Another frequent cause of ladder-related injuries is attempting to reach too far left or right. When working on a ladder, the person’s belt buckle should never extend beyond the side rails. Reaching further can cause the ladder to slide in the opposite direction. Tying the ladder to the structure supporting it can prevent this and is a recommended practice.

Workers should have both hands free to hold the ladder’s siderails, not the rungs, when climbing or descending. Small tools may be carried in a tool belt, not in the hands; but a better choice is to raise tools and supplies with a rope. Never raise or lower power tools by the cord or while they are plugged into an electrical source.

Makeshift ladders like chairs, boxes, and barrels should never be used as substitutes for a ladder.

Falls from Vehicles and Equipment

Death or serious injury is a frequent result of extra riders falling from tractors, equipment or the bed of a truck. Unless the operation requires riders, such as on certain planting and harvesting equipment where seats or protected work areas are provided, extra riders should never be permitted.

Riding on tractor fenders, draw-bars on equipment, or the bed of a truck is an invitation for a disaster. The safe way is “NO RIDERS”.

Far too many injuries occur in the simple process of getting in and out of trucks, on or off tractors, machinery, wagons, trailers or truck beds. When the steps are metal, there is a low COF which becomes even lower if they are wet, muddy or oily. Keep the steps clean and dry.

Whenever mounting or climbing on a vehicle or machine, have a good hand-hold before stepping up. Pulling yourself up reduces the force between your shoe and the step and reduces the danger of a slip. As with a ladder, the foot should be placed on the step or rung just in front of your heel, under the arch.

Face the vehicle or equipment when mounting and dismounting. When stepping down backward, one steps down on the ball of the foot; when stepping down forward, one lands on the heel, thus increasing the chances of falling, twisting an ankle or knee or suffering some other injury.

Practice the “Three-Point System.” This system can significantly reduce the chances of injuring yourself through a slip or fall while climbing ladders or while entering or exiting a vehicle. The Three-Point System means that three of your four limbs are in contact with the ladder or vehicle at all times, either one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot — only one limb is in motion at any one time.

One more tip that will save you from many sprains or worse: When getting off the bed of a truck or wagon or any similar level: Step down backward, never “jump” or “fall” down forward.

Loading docks

Loading docks and ramps are dangerous areas. They are frequently congested, heavy-traffic areas, and working and walking surfaces are often wet. Metal dock plates can wear smooth and become very slippery; in particular, the edge of a dock plate invites trips and falls.

Accidental backward steps can result in a fall from the dock. Portable railings, which can be easily removed from the edge of the dock, could prevent many dangerous falls. They are removed when a truck or tractor is at the dock, and replaced as soon as the truck or trailer leaves.

Proper housekeeping, well-designed traffic patterns and the use of abrasive, skid-resistant surface coatings will reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls.

Ramps and gang-planks have hazards similar to loading docks. The slopes should be as gradual as possible, as wide as possible, and as dry as possible. They should also have skid-resistant surfaces.

Stairs

Stairwells should be well-lighted, with sturdy handrails on both sides. Persons using the stairwell should have one hand free to be able to use the handrail.
All the steps should have the same rise and depth, with visible edges.

They must be kept free of grease, oil and obstacles which could cause slips and trips. Whenever possible, avoid carrying heavy or bulky objects which obscure your vision and/or require the use of both hands. Carry smaller, lighter loads and make more trips, or obtain help with the load.

Fixed Ladders

Fixed ladders are mounted on buildings, bins and other tall structures which require workers to climb to high levels to perform some functions.

Such ladders should be securely attached to the structure and be capable of supporting a minimum of 250 pounds, of concentrated live weight. Rungs should be a minimum of 16 inches wide and a maximum of 12 inches apart.

There should be seven inches of toe space between the rung and the structure to which it is attached. Fixed ladders extending more than 20 feet above the ground or floor level should be surrounded by a cage, beginning at 7 to 8 feet above the ground.

If a catwalk or working area is provided at the top of the ladder, it should have a protective railing at least 42 inches high. A toe board, four-inches high, around the edge of the work area should be provided. This reduces the risk of a person stepping off the edge or having tools fall from the work area.

Workers climbing or descending a fixed ladder should have both hands free. Small tools can be carried in a tool belt; other tools and materials should be raised by rope and pulleys or some other mechanical system.

Fall protection

Workers at high elevations, such as ladders, platforms, or catwalks, should be protected from falling by some kind of fall protective device. This can be a protective cage, a lifeline, lanyard, safety belt or harness; there are numerous devices on the market.

The system should provide maximum protection, but it also should be reasonably comfortable and not restrict a worker’s necessary work activity. Suppliers of safety equipment can provide information on the correct system for your workplace and should provide instruction on its safe use.

Slip-resistant materials

Abrasive coatings can be applied to concrete, metal and wood surfaces to increase the COF and reduce the risks of slips and falls. Many of these products can be applied like paint; others can be troweled on in a thin coat.

These coatings are formulated to resist grease, oil, water and a wide range of chemicals. Most paint and building supply companies handle these materials. It is important, however, to purchase the correct product for your particular problem, since some are enamels or epoxies which contain a rough, hard, gritty material with a high COF.

There are also a number of skid-resistant products that can be purchased in strips or rolls. These may have a pressure-sensitive backing or be applied with a special glue. They are designed for easy application to stair treads, ramps and other hazardous walking and working surfaces.

Another effective skid-resistant material is rubber or rubber-like mats. This material is long-wearing and skid-resistant on both the top and bottom sides. Hard rubber or hard rubber-like mats are ineffective because they have a low COF when wet.

Signs and stripping

Safety signs to remind people of slip, trip and fall hazards are certainly always helpful, particularly where hazards cannot be removed or corrected. Such signs should be changed frequently. Recent evidence indicates that “humorous” warnings are more effective than simple warning signs. “CAUTION WET FLOOR” is less effective than “WET FLOOR, SKATE, DON’T SLIP”.

Yellow stripping to identify walking and working areas are most effective if their meaning is enforced. Striped areas should mean that no object should be placed in these areas. Dropped and spilled materials should be removed immediately.

Learning how to fall

Naturally, the goal is not to slip, trip and fall; however, the possibility of a fall still exists. There are correct ways to fall, however, the recommended procedures are:

•    Tuck your chin in, turn your head, and throw an arm up. It is better-to land on your arm than on your head.
•    While falling, twist or roll your body to the side. It is better to land on your buttocks and side than on your back.
•    Keep your wrists, elbows and knees bent. Do not try to break the fall with your hands or elbows. When falling, the objective is to have as many square inches of your body contact the surface as possible, thus, spreading out the impact of the fall.

Recommendations

Established policies and practices can be implemented to significantly reduce the number of injuries and deaths due to slips, trips, and falls. The following recommendations are provided for your consideration:

•    Owners, managers and supervisors must make a commitment to prevent accidental slips, trips, and falls.

•    Regular frequent inspections of working and walking areas should be conducted to identify environmental and equipment hazards which could cause slips, trips, and falls. Special attention should be given to the working and walking surfaces, housekeeping, lighting, vision, stairways and ladders. Immediate corrective action should be taken.

•    Extensive safety training on the prevention of slips, trips, and falls should be provided for all new employees. Regular retraining should be provided for all employees. Special attention should be given to proper walking, carrying, climbing and descending stairways, ladders, vehicles and equipment. Unsafe practices should be corrected immediately.

•    All workers should wear proper footwear for their work and environment whether in the office, shop, plant, feedlot or field.

•    No riders should be permitted on tractors, trucks or other self-powered or towed equipment unless a safe seat or workstation is provided.

•    STFs with or without injury, should be reported, recorded and thoroughly investigated. Corrective action to prevent such a repeat occurrence should be taken immediately.

Slip Trip Falls risk resources

-Becker, William J., and Tracy A. Wood. 1992. An Analysis of Agricultural Accidents in Florida for 1991. Gainesville, Florida: Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Available on the Internet through the National Agricultural Safety Database: http://www.nasdonline.org (accessed June 9, 2009).
Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2005. Lost-Worktime Injuries and Illnesses: Characteristics and Resulting Time away from Work, 2004. News (Bureau of Labor Statistics), December 13, 2005. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/osh2_12132005.pdf (accessed June 9, 2009).
-Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2008. National Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries in 2007. News (Bureau of Labor Statistics), August 20, 2008. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf (accessed June 9, 2009).
-Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2008. Workplace Injury and Illness Summary. http://www.bls.gov/news.release/osh.nr0.htm (Accessed June 9, 2009).
-Carol J. Lehtola, associate professor and Extension Agricultural Safety Specialist; Charles M. Brown, coordinator information/publication services; William J. Becker, professor emeritus; Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville.
-Circular 869, one of a series of the Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published August 1990. Revised October 1992 and February 2001. Reviewed May 2006. Revised August 2008. Please visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
-Dutton, Cheryl. 1988. Make Foot Protection a Hit. Safety and Health 138 (5): 30-33.
-Ellis, J. Nigel and Howard B. Lewis, 1988. Introduction to Fall Protection. Des Plaines, Illinois: American Society of Safety Engineers.
-Florida AgSafe Network Web site, at: http://flagsafe.ufl.edu
-Goldsmith, Aaron. Natural Walking, Unnatural Falls. Safety and Health 138 (5): 44-47.
-Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS)
-McElroy, Frank (ed.). 1980. Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations, 7th ed. Chicago, Illinois: National Safety Council.
-National Safety Council. 2008. Estimating the Cost of Unintentional Injuries. http://www.nsc.org/resources/issues/estcost.aspx (accessed June 10, 2009).
National Safety Council. 2008. Reports on Injuries in America, 2008. http://www.nsc.org/lrs/injuriesinamerica08.aspx (accessed: June 9, 2009).
-Peter, Robert. 1985. Fallsafe: Reducing Injuries From Slips and Falls. Professional Safety 30 (10): 15-18.
-Peter, Robert. 1985. How to Prevent Falling Injuries. National Safety and Health News 132 (4): 87-91.
-Preventing Injuries from Slips, Trips, and Falls; Carol J Lehtola, Charles M Brown, William J Becker; univ florida ifas extension
-Preventing Injuries from Slips, Trips, and Falls; Carol J Lehtola, Charles M Brown, William J Becker; univ florida ifas extension
-Strachta, Bruce J. 1987. Keep Fall Costs Down. Safety and Health 135 (4): 30-32.
-USA Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A. & M. University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim Dean.
-Waller, Julian A. 1985. Injury Control: A Guide to the Causes and Prevention of Trauma. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

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One thought on “How to manage slip trip falls (STFs)

  1. Who is the author of this article. Its a good article full of information. Thumps up to the author

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