Prevent Workplace Falls
Workplace falls are both common and preventable. Falls from heights is the second-leading cause of unintentional workplace death in the U.S. However, a worker doesn’t need to fall from a high level to suffer injuries and lost work time. Falls can happen anywhere; even office workers can be injured from slipping or tripping on a level surface.
Prevent falls from heights
There can be unsafe conditions in the workplace and unsafe actions that can lead to a fall.
Unsafe conditions that lead to falls include:
- Unguarded edges
- Open holes
- Improper guardrails
- Damaged equipment (e.g., ladders, stairs, safety equipment, etc.)
- Slippery conditions
- Unmarked elevation changes
Unsafe actions that lead to falls include:
- Working at heights without fall protection or fall prevention methods (e.g., handrails)
- Improper use of ladders
- Leaning over guardrails
Best practices to avoid workplace falls:
- Have physical barriers and guardrails to prevent falls from heights
- Use scaffolding if a guardrail is not feasible
- Use proper fall arrest system such as a full body harness, self-retracting lanyard, and approved anchor point
- Use ladders properly
- Choose the right ladder for the job – size and type.
- Keep three points of contact when climbing.
- Do not lean to one side while on a ladder.
- Set the ladder at the proper angle/ratio.
- Secure the ladder before using.
- Post a fall hazard warning sign in areas where a fall hazard exists
- Inspect fall protection equipment before each use
- Never use equipment not rated or made for fall protection
Prevent slips and trips
Both slips and trips result from some unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface.
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
- Flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have the same degree of traction in all areas
Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes, hits) with an object causing you to lose balance and eventually fall. Common causes of trips are:
- Obstructed view
- Poor lighting
- Clutter in your way
- Wrinkled carpeting
- Uncovered cables
- Bottom drawers not being closed
- Uneven walking surfaces (steps, thresholds)
Good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), and proper footwear are critical for preventing fall incidents.
Good housekeeping is fundamental for preventing falls due to slips and trips. It includes:
- Cleaning up all spills immediately
- Marking spills and wet areas
- Mopping or sweeping debris from floors
- Removing obstacles from walkways and always keeping walkways free of clutter
- Securing (tack, tape, etc.) mats, rugs, and carpets that do not lay flat
- Closing file cabinet or storage drawers
- Covering cables that cross walkways
- Keeping work areas and walkways well lit
- Replacing non-working light bulbs and switches
Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measures such as installation of sophisticated flooring, specialty footwear or fall prevention training will never be fully effective.
Changing or modifying walking surfaces is the next level of preventing slips and trips. Adding resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip prevention measures.
Options include recoating or replacing floors, installing mats, adding pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating, and using metal or synthetic decking. Even with these measures, it is critical to remember that high-tech flooring requires good housekeeping as much as any other flooring.
In workplaces where floors may be oily or wet, or where workers spend considerable time outdoors, prevention of fall incidents should focus on selecting proper footwear. Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which, in turn, improves personnel safety.
Because no footwear exists with anti-slip properties for every condition, you should consult the manufacturers’ recommendations when selecting footwear.
You can avoid falls at work
Reduce the risk of slipping on wet flooring.
- Take your time and pay attention to where you are going.
- Adjust your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing.
- Walk with your feet pointed slightly outward.
- Make wide turns at corners.
Reduce the risk of tripping.
- Keep walking areas clear from clutter or obstructions.
- Keep the flooring in good condition.
- Always use installed light sources that provide sufficient light for your tasks.
- Use a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light.
- Make sure that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.
National statistics on workplace falls
Statistics show that the majority (67%) of falls happen on a level surface resulting from slips and trips. The remaining falls (30%) are from a height, such as falls from ladders, roofs, down stairs or from jumping to a lower level.
National injury and fatality statistics show four fall-related OSHA violations ranked high in 2019, 2020, and 2021. The fall-related violations are from data of the top ten OSHA violations reported by the National Safety Council. The fall-related violations include:
- Fall protection
- Fall protection training
According to OSHA the data reported appears to split evenly between construction and general industry.
OSHA requires employers to:
- Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
- Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition.
- Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
- Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.
Spencer-SHE has been providing Safety, Health, and Environmental Compliance Guidance since 1980. Let our team evaluate your work areas for fall hazards and provide solutions to mitigate them.
Contact us here to help you to develop and maintain a safe and healthy workforce.