Course 601 - Essentials of Occupational Safety and Health

Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Slips, Trips, and Falls

Messy office space
If the facility housekeeping habits are poor, the result may well be employee injuries, ever increasing insurance costs, and regulatory citations.

Slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of general industry accidents. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of death. OSHA addresses hazards associated with slips, trips, and falls in its rules for walking/working surfaces and fall protection.

  • Walking/working surfaces means any surface, whether horizontal or vertical on which an employee walks or works, including, but not limited to, floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, formwork, and concrete reinforcing steel but not including ladders, vehicles, or trailers, on which employees must be located in order to perform their job duties.
  • Fall protection means equipment in four categories, such as fall arrest and positioning systems, guardrail systems, suspension, retrieval, and safety monitoring systems, to prevent falls from elevated surfaces.

The Most Common Accident

According to the National Safety Council, workers are injured from slips, trips, and fall accidents more than any other occupational injury. These can often be avoided if proper housekeeping procedures are used. It is not uncommon for a worker to trip on a piece of equipment or tool that they themselves forgot to put away.

The solution is reflected in the old adage of "having a place for everything and putting everything in its place." Like "safety" itself, good housekeeping is everyone's responsibility. Let's discuss this important topic in the next section.

1. According to the National Safety Council, which of the following accident types results in most occupational injuries?

a. Impacts
b. Caught in equipment
c. Slips, trips, and falls
d. Struck by falling objects

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Tools organized on a peg board
Have a place for everything and put everything in its place. Proper housekeeping is a routine.

Good Housekeeping

It has often been said that safety and housekeeping go hand in hand. This is very true, especially when addressing the serious issue of slips, trips, and falls.

  • If the facility housekeeping habits are poor, the result may well be employee injuries, ever-increasing insurance costs, and regulatory citations.
  • If an organization's facilities are noticeably clean and well organized, it is a good indication its overall safety program is effective as well.

Every workplace is subject to either good or bad housekeeping. Construction sites, factories, warehouses, laboratories, kitchens, hospitals, and offices: The list is endless. In all of these diverse areas, good housekeeping can be achieved by establishing a simple three-step program to prevent slips, trips, and falls.

  1. Plan Ahead - know what needs to be done, who is going to do it, and what the work area should look like when they're done.
  2. Assign Responsibilities - if necessary, a person should be specifically assigned to clean up (although personal responsibility for cleaning up after him/herself is preferred).
  3. Implement a Program - establish housekeeping as a part of the daily routine (an ongoing procedure).

2. Which of the following is one of the three steps in a program to prevent slips, trips, and falls?

a. List of chemicals
b. Fire those who create hazards
c. Establish good housekeeping procedures
d. Perform comprehensive daily inspections

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Caution sign - Slippery when wet
Traction can change when subjected to environmental factors.

Wet or slippery surfaces

Slips and trips on walking surfaces are a significant portion of injuries reported by covered state agencies. The specific types of surfaces involved in these injuries vary considerably, but some of the more frequently reported are:

  • parking lots;
  • sidewalks (or lack of);
  • food preparation areas and shower stalls in residential dorms; and,
  • floors in general.

Traction on outdoor surfaces can drastically change when subjected to environmental factors such as rain or sleet or on indoor surfaces when moisture is tracked in by pedestrian traffic.

Some administrative controls that can be implemented outdoors include the following:

  • Keep areas, such as the parking lots and sidewalks, clean and in good repair condition.
  • If snow or ice is a factor, additional controls can be implemented to either remove the snow where feasible or, in the case of ice, to treat the surface with sand or other environmentally friendly material. If surfaces are sloped, an additional precaution may be to temporarily suspend the use of the area.
  • Use adhesive stripping material or anti-skid paint whenever possible.

3. What should be used whenever possible to help reduce slips, trips, and falls?

a. Paint with silica particles
b. Adhesive strips or anti-skid paint
c. Salt
d. Sand or small gravel

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Wet or Slippery Surfaces (continued...)

A wide variety of surfaces are available indoors. Although most provide some degree of slip resistance in their original state, there are some exceptions. Highly polished floors can be extremely slippery even when dry and definitely increases the potential for a slip when moisture is present. Other types of floors present hazards, especially in the presence of moisture, liquid spills, or food.

wet floor caution sign with mop
A wet floor sign can be a valuable control measure.

Control measures that can minimize injuries caused by wet surfaces include the following:

  • anti-skid adhesive tape is an excellent and economically feasible control to prevent slips, trips, and falls;
  • moisture-absorbent mats should be placed in entrance areas but be careful that they do not become tripping hazards;
  • floor mats should have beveled edges, lie flat on the floor, and be made out of material or contain a backing that will not slide on the floor;
  • wet floor signs attract attention but should not be a sole control technique. It is also important that once the hazard is removed, the sign is also be removed, so they are not ignored;
  • implement a policy or procedure that gives the appropriate action to be taken when someone causes or comes across a food or liquid spill;
  • area rugs or mats in food preparation areas or bathing facilities may be an effective measure by increasing the coefficient of friction when moisture is present; and
  • where wet processes are used, maintain adequate drainage, mats, and false floors whenever possible.

4. Why should you take caution when choosing mats for areas with wet floors?

a. Mats can actually make it more slippery
b. They can be very expensive
c. Mats can become tripping hazards
d. Mats slip if not properly secured

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Obstructions and Clutter

Injuries can also result from trips caused by reasons other than slippery surfaces, namely inadvertent contact with obstacles or other types of material (debris) and/or equipment. For example, obstacles could include obstructions across hallways, material stacked or dumped in passageways, cluttered worksites, and the list can go on.

As mentioned earlier, good housekeeping is still the most effective control measure in avoiding slips, trips and fall hazards. This means having policies or procedures in place and allowing time for cleaning the area, especially where scrap material or waste is a by-product of the work operation.

Keep aisles and corridors clean, clear, and in good repair to the maximum extent possible. This is especially true in office environments where there is a common tendency to store or stack material, especially boxes, in hallways and corridors. Not only is this an unsafe practice conducive to a tripping hazard, but also a source of fuel in the event of a fire.

Use this checklist to test your compliance with OSHA's walking and working surfaces standards for the general industry.

5. What's the best way to prevent slip, trip, and, fall accidents?

a. Good housekeeping
b. OSHA regulations
c. A zero-tolerance program
d. Approved foot protection

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Worker perching on a steel beam
Fall hazards are foreseeable.

Fall Hazards

A fall hazard is anything in the workplace that could cause an unintended loss of balance or bodily support and result in a fall. Click on the button below to see examples of accidents that result from fall hazards.

Fall hazards cause accidents such as the following:

  • a worker walking near an unprotected leading edge trips over a protruding board;
  • a worker slips while climbing an icy stairway;
  • a makeshift scaffold collapses under the weight of four workers and their equipment; or
  • a worker carries a sheet of plywood on a flat roof steps into a skylight opening.

Identify Hazardous Work Areas

Many work areas may not be considered hazardous, especially if employees work often in those areas. Click on the button below to see the hazardous work areas that could expose you or others to fall hazards.

Hazardous work areas include the following:

  • holes in walking/working surfaces that they could step into or fall through;
  • elevated walking/working surfaces six feet or more above a lower level;
  • skylights and smoke domes that workers could step into or fall through;
  • wall openings such as those for windows or doors that workers could fall through;
  • trenches and other excavations that workers could fall into;
  • walking/working surfaces from which workers could fall onto dangerous equipment;
  • hoist areas where guardrails have been removed to receive materials;
  • sides and edges of walking/working surfaces such as established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways that are 6 feet or more above a lower level and not protected by guardrails at least 39 inches high;
  • ramps and runways that are not protected by guardrails at least 39 inches high;
  • leading edges - edges of floors, roofs, and decks - that change location as additional sections are added; and
  • wells, pits, or shafts not protected with guardrails, fences, barricades, or covers.

Consider Other Factors that Could Increase the Risk of Falls

When analyzing the workplace and activities for fall hazards, it's important to ask as many questions as you can to anticipate potential accidents. Click on the button below to see question to ask that can help anticipate potential accidents.

Some Questions to Ask

  • Will tasks expose workers to overhead power lines?
  • Will they need to use scaffolds, ladders, or aerial lifts on unstable or uneven ground?
  • Will they be working during hot, cold, or windy weather?
  • Will workers need to frequently lift, bend, or move in ways that put them off balance?
  • Will they be working extended shifts that could contribute to fatigue?

6. A fall hazard is anything in the workplace that could _____.

a. instigate an unsafe behavior
b. bring legal judgment against the employer
c. result in an OSHA accident investigation
d. cause an unintended loss of balance or bodily support

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Staircase with railing
Ways to prevent falls include covers, guardrails, handrails, perimeter safety cables, and personal fall-restraint systems.

Eliminating Fall Hazards

Eliminating a fall hazard is the most effective fall-protection strategy. Eliminating a fall hazard is the most effective fall-protection strategy. Ways to eliminate fall hazards and reduce exposure to them include the following:

  • perform construction work on the ground before lifting or tilting it to an elevated position;
  • install permanent stairs early in the project so that workers don't need to use ladders between floors;
  • use tool extensions to perform work from the ground;
  • identify fall hazards that you can't eliminate. If you can't eliminate fall hazards, you need to prevent falls or control them so that workers who may fall are not injured;
  • install covers, guardrails, handrails, perimeter safety cables, and personal fall-restraint systems; and
  • use fall-arrest systems, positioning-device systems, and safety-net systems. Use these fall-protection systems only when you can't eliminate fall hazards or prevent falls from occurring.

7. When is the use of fall-arrest systems necessary?

a. When it is not possible to eliminate the fall hazard
b. Anytime when working above 4 feet in height
c. When safety net systems are not available
d. When the use of fall-restraint is inconvenient

Check your Work

Click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. Any questions you missed will be listed below. To correct your answers, go back to the question, change your answer, and come back to this section and click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button again.

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Watch Out! Hazards! - Prevent Slips Trips and Falls - Safety Memos Safety Training Video. For more free safety training videos like this one, see the Safety Memos YouTube channel.

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