Slips, trips and falls. Hilarious when it’s the Three Stooges. Not so funny when it’s you and your business.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t think it’s a joke. In fact, the safety agency has stepped up its enforcement of regulations in an effort to reduce injuries on construction and general industry work sites. There were 225,550 injuries involving falls, slips and trips in 2011. The same year falls, slips or trips took the lives of 681 workers.
Construction fatalities happen every day at all kinds of work sites. Slips and falls cause disabilities, they rack up huge costs for employers, they cut into productivity and they make insurance premiums skyrocket. Then there’s the cost of replacing workers who are absent due to injury. The workers themselves lose wages when they’re hurt, not to mention the pain of a temporary or permanent disability.
The U.S. Department of Labor says slips, trips and falls make up most general industry accidents and cause 15 percent of all accidental deaths (making it the second leading cause of death behind motor vehicle accidents). They are among the most frequently reported injuries, and here’s the heartbreaking part: Most of them could have been prevented.
Prevent accidents by making sure your worksite is clean and orderly. You should use platforms, mats or other dry standing places for wet processes. Maintain sufficient safe clearance where mechanical handling equipment is used. Keep aisles and passageways clear and in good repair and make sure there are no obstructions that create a hazard.
“Overhead, not underfoot” is a phrase to remember when it comes to running wires, hoses, and cables. If you have to run them along the floor, make sure they are straight, bundled and marked for easy identification.
Some other workplace design considerations include:
- Processes to prevent discharge, splatter, or spillage of liquids, oils, particles, clouds of dust and offal onto floors
- Local exhaust ventilation
- Extraction/collection systems
- Work surfaces with raised or lipped edges
- Catch/drip pans and drain-offs to contain leaks of lubricant onto the floor from machinery
- Regularly scheduled maintenance
- Adequate ventilation to avoid smoke, steam, and condensation of water and grease onto the floor
- Adequate lighting to keep work areas, aisles, and paths of travel well lit
- Clearly-marked step edges and other areas with a change in elevation
- Anti-skid paint, slip-resistant coatings, and strips
- Sufficient lighting and handrails on stairs
- Effective drainage, false floors or work platforms
- Slip-resistant floors in high-risk areas
Those are the design elements to keep in mind for a safe workplace. Now let’s look at some of the human factors that increase the likelihood of slips, trips and falls. They include:
- Failing eyesight
- Advanced age
- Stress or illness
- The use of medications, alcohol and illegal drugs
- Carrying or moving cumbersome objects or too many objects at one time
- Not paying attention to surroundings (being distracted)
- Taking unapproved shortcuts
- Being in a hurry and rushing
As we said, OSHA is looking for violations. Even if you and your workers avoid injuries from slips and falls, you won’t avoid fines and penalties if inspectors find violations. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Wear a safety harness that fits
- Use guardrails and lifelines
- Inspect fall protection equipment before use
- Guard or cover roof holes, openings and skylights
- Use the right ladder for the job
- Maintain three points of contact on ladders
- Secure and face the ladder
- Use fully planked scaffolds that are plumb and level
- Wear slip-resistant shoes
- Make sure walkways and other floor areas are well-lit
- Ensure plenty of storage so equipment doesn’t end up scattered on the job site
- Disconnect from your lifeline while working on a roof
- Stand at the top of a stepladder
- Overreach while on a ladder
- Use a ladder on a scaffold
- Climb on scaffolding crossbraces
The first step is to make sure everyone on the job is properly trained. OSHAcampus.com is the leading provider of online education for OSHA 10-hour, OSHA 30-hour training, HAZWOPER 8, 24, 40-hour and MSHA training. Our eLearning courses cover all the requirements for a safe, productive work environment.