FORT LEE, Va. - Slips, trips and falls are among the leading causes of unintentional injury in the United States. They account for well over 8 million visits to the emergency room every year and are one of the top causes of accidental death, according to the National Safety Council.
Most adults probably know someone who ended up in the hospital, or worse, after a serious fall. The risk increases with activity level and age. Frequent victims include home do-it-yourselfers and individuals with warehouse- or shop-centric jobs. Falls among the elderly are common as well because of their decreased motor skills and coordination.
It’s an expensive problem also. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tripping and falling injuries account for 12-15 percent of workers’ compensation payments each year, and the cost of medical insurance claims is astronomical. Clearly, this is a safety issue worthy of awareness and preventative measures.
Some of the obvious areas where one could easily trip and fall include doorways, ramps, loading docks, stairs and uneven sidewalks or pathways. Hidden or often overlooked slipping or tripping hazards include buckled or damaged flooring, wet surfaces from spills or rain, and unmarked ledges or drop-offs, just to name a few.
Everyone can take steps to prevent trips and falls. The following measures are particularly important:
• Keep electric and phone cords away from traffic areas; secure them so they can’t be moved or buckled to the point of becoming harmful. If an extension cord is used in a high-traffic area, use a cord cover or a warning sign straddled over the cord to alert others to the potential tripping hazard.
• Remove boxes, toys, clothes, shoes, etc., from walking areas.
• Check the condition of walkways and steps, to include any handrails. Immediately repair damage or call in a work order to have it fixed. Remove debris from exterior walkways. Make sure indoor and outdoor steps are well-lit. Use handrails on steps whenever they are available.
• Never stand on a chair, table or items on wheels. When using a ladder or step stool, ensure it is sitting on a stable, even surface. Always keep at least three points of contact with the ladder (i.e. two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand). Face the ladder and grip the rungs, not the side rails, when climbing up or down a ladder. Don’t climb holding tools or other items, and avoid using a ladder outdoors if it’s excessively windy or inclement weather is expected.
• Immediately clean up spills. Avoid freshly mopped floors. Wear shoes with good slip-resistant soles.
• Keep cabinet doors and drawers closed at all times.
• Choose the right footwear for the job. For example, a non-slip and sturdy work boot should be worn when operating a lawn mower. It’s the best way to protect feet as well as prevent slipping on grass or gravel.
A final note about cellphones – any individual who is engaged in conversation over a mobile communication device is more likely to be distracted from the task at hand (i.e., walking and driving) and, therefore, is at greater risk of causing/having an accident. If you’re on the job, on the way or in the middle of a project, you need to pay attention. Save the phone call for afterward or stop what you’re doing in the interest of safety.
Additional training materials and information is available through the Installation Safety Office. For assistance, call 804-734-3130. Helpful information also can be found at www.nsc.org/work-safety/safety-topics/slips-trips-falls.