There are many ways to avoid and prevent accidents involving slipping, tripping, and falling in the workplace. These hazards have historically caused many injuries. With most of the suggestions provided below, common sense dictates safe practice.
HAZARDS FROM SLIPPING
Slipping occurs when there is not enough friction or traction between feet and ground surface. The most common causes of slipping are:
- Wet surfaces
- Worn shoe soles
- Weather (hazards from ice and snow)
To avoid slipping on wet surfaces:
Worn Shoe Soles and Inclement Weather
- Avoid (take detours around) the area of a floor that is wet. Standing water may indicate a clogged drain and may camouflage a missing drain or cover.
- For areas that are always wet, maintain pro per drainage, or use a doormat to create slip free transition areas between wet and dry surfaces. If possible, use nonskid strips, mats, gratings, and gritty floor coatings for these areas.
- For temporarily wet surfaces, dry the surface, when possible, by mopping or cleaning one side of the space at a time so that people passing through the room will have a dry area on which to walk. Post warning signs for passersby to make them aware of wet areas.
- Walk with feet pointed outward, shorten strides to keep a c enter of balance, and wear slip resistant footwear. This footwear usually has soft rubber soles and heels
- Remember that wet shoes on dry floors can be just as slippery as dry shoes on a wet surface.
Only shoes with good soles and treads that provide traction and ankle support should be worn. When ordering boots for fieldwork, sole patterns that give slip resistance appropriate for job tasks should be selected. Overshoes or shoe overlays provide proper traction in icy or snowy conditions. The effects of glare on snowy surfaces can make it difficult to see walking hazards; consider wearing sunglasses to reduce the glare. The sunglasses must be ANSI-approved safety glasses. Work in snow and ice should be performed slowly, taking extra care when exiting vehicles to hold on to the vehicles for support.
Spills should be cleaned up immediately and the floor dried. If cleaning is not immediately possible, warning signs should be posted to draw attention to the spill area to warn people of the hazard. Walking surfaces and work areas should be well lit. If machinery leaks, a drip pan should be used to collect fluids, or absorbents to clean the walking surface. Suitable agents for cleaning grease and oil spills should also be used when necessary.
Rugs secured to the floor or made with skid-resistant backing are optimal. When rugs with skid-resistant backing are not available, removing these rugs also removes dangers from slipping. Debris, including dust particles or pieces of paper, should likewise be removed. If irregular surfaces caused by loose gravel or sloping are encountered, employees should slow down and pay attention to the placement of their feet and look for obstructions and holes.
In addition to these hazards, walking from one type of surface, such as from carpets to marble floors or from grass to gravel surfaces, can change the length of steps. Employees should adjust their steps and adapt balance until they can regain equilibrium and feel stable on the new surface. Slip-resistant shoes can be beneficial in preventing slips.
Tripping occurs when feet strike an object that causes the loss of balance. Commonly, this happens from:
Clutter, Uncovered Cables, and Piping
- Unrolled water hoses electrical extension cords
- Uneven walking surfaces
- A hole or stump in the ground)
- Obstructed views of the walking surfaces (i.e., tall grass)
- Poor lighting
Good housekeeping, which includes keeping floors and walkways free of clutter and obstacles, should regularly be practiced. Nothing
should be put on walkways to cause an obstruction. Cords or cables should be routed around walkways, if possible, and should be covered and secured with heavy-duty tape or cable covers. Mats, rugs, or carpets should not have curled edges or wrinkles, and should be secured by tacking or taping them down. Warning signs or barriers should be posted around temporary piping laid on walking surfaces to notify employees of possible tripping hazards posed by piping on the ground. In the office or other storage spaces, personnel should remember to close bottom drawers of file cabinets or tool carts as soon as they are finished with their work.
Uneven Walking Surfaces, Sloped Surfaces, and Holes and Stumps in the Ground
To avoid tripping, established walkways should be used as often as possible. When walking scan ahead for obstacles and surface hazards. Use extra caution while walking through wet grass, around holes or stumps, or in muddy areas. Canes or long sticks can be used to help identify holes or obstructions in areas with high grass.
When walking down sloped surfaces, use extreme caution, especially if walking on an exposed geomembrane liner. Walk with knees bent and take small steps to lessen the risk of a fall or trip. Employees should use canes or walking sticks to assist in walking up or down slope surfaces. Whenever possible, avoid walking up or down steep slopes and use switchback trails or established roadways to travel up or down steep slopes.
If you cannot go around an obstruction, try to step over it (instead of on it). Stumps, logs, rocks, piles of lumber, etc. can be slippery, and may shift or move. They may also contain animals, insects, and other biological hazards such as snakes.
Obstructed Views and Poor Lighting
Carry small loads helps to reduce the risk of obstruction and the dangerous consequences from tripping or falling as described above. If employees are required to enter unlit areas, flashlights can be used, and the pace of walking slowed. Sunglasses should be avoided in low-light areas, and, because eyes need time to adjust while personnel go from well-lit areas to dark spaces, this adjustment must be considered. To improve vision, burned-out light bulbs and faulty lighting should be replaced as soon as possible.
The use of respirators may limit the field of vision, and employees should be especially cautious when using respirators and be constantly aware of rocks or other soil debris when walking on landfills or field sites. Employees should stay on established walkways as much as possible, and the walkways should be maintained free of tripping hazards.
Obstacles Around Corners
Personnel in offices or buildings should walk carefully around corners and look for obstacles on the floor. Stay to the outside of corridors when rounding corners. Safety mirrors near corners help to show oncoming traffic or obstacles obscured by corners.
HAZARDS FROM FALLING
Falling from heights can cause serious injury or death. Employees should always use 3 points of contact when climbing ladders or into equipment. Makeshift ladders or chairs should never be used to reach for objects at elevated heights.
To ensure safety on stairs, make sure one hand is free while climbing, and hold on to the handrail. Each step up or down should be made deliberately, planting your foot firmly before putting weight on it. Carrying large loads that block vision, or heavy items requiring the use of both hands while traveling down or up the stairs, should be avoided. When climbing up or down from heavy machinery or trucks, the use of the three-point of contact rule (three of your four limbs should be placed on hand or foot rails of machinery or vehicles while entering or exiting: this means one hand and two feet, or two hands and one foot).