Slips, trips and falls are common workplace hazards. So common, in fact, that they are the second-leading cause of lost-worktime injuries. However, many facilities overlook the need to evaluate slip, trip and fall hazards—perhaps because these types of incidents are not directly tied to specific job duties or tasks, unlike those identified during a job hazard analyses (JHA).
Conducting a risk assessment to identify slip, trip and fall hazards involves evaluating every walking surface in and around your facility to determine dangerous conditions. This inspection facilitates discussions on how to eliminate or better manage hazardous conditions to help prevent injuries.
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Identifying Slip, Trip and Fall Hazards
Slips, trips and falls can happen in any area of your facility and can injure any employee, even those not in production or assembly areas. When assessing slip, trip and fall risks, begin at the parking lot and inspect all areas in and around the facility. Aim to involve employees from various areas in assessments and audits, because this can help uncover conditions that are common but may not exist on the particular day or at the particular time that an audit is conducted.
Falls that result from a slip or trip can happen anywhere. Slips, by definition, happen when something comes between a person’s foot and the walking surface. Slips can be caused by:
• Liquids that have spilled on a floor
• Dusts, granules or particles that have accumulated on a floor
• Wearing the wrong type of footwear
• Improper floor cleaning techniques
• Wet weather conditions (rain, snow, ice)
• Transition areas with drastic changes in coefficient of friction
• Low lighting
Trips happen when a person’s foot hits an object in their walking path. Common causes include:
• Uneven sidewalks, or any variation of ¼” or more on a walking surface
• Buckled entrance matting
• Worn, wrinkled carpeting
• Clutter in aisles and walkways
• Cords or cables that cross walkways
• Drawers and cabinet doors that are left open
• Low lighting
Slip, trip and fall injuries can also result from inattention and distractions such as carrying items, using a cell phone, having a discussion or listening to music. Contributing factors also include physical characteristics such as a person’s age, gait, disabilities and familiarity with an area. These factors are harder to control than physical hazards.
Analyzing Risk Potential
A first-time slip, trip and fall audit can produce a lengthy list of findings. As with other safety risk assessments, it is important to prioritize each finding by the probability and severity of the possible situation. You must also determine which problems you can eliminate and which you will need to manage.