Health & Safety
Health & Safety: Be steady: Prevent slips, trips and falls in the workplace
September 30, 2023 By The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)
Whether you’re working at a golf course, landscaping or construction site, in a commercial kitchen, or on a warehouse floor, you could find yourself at risk of slipping or tripping. You may be surprised to learn that most falls don’t happen from roofs, ladders, or any other heights. In fact, most falls happen on the same level and are caused by slips and trips. Considering that in 2021, there were 29,498 lost time claims related to workplace falls (on the same level) in Canada (representing almost 10 per cent of all lost time claims), workplaces need to watch for slip and trip hazards, regardless of industry.
Slips and trips happen when there is some unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or floor. The number of hazards can increase seasonally with the weather such as frost, wet leaves, ice, and shortened daylight hours in autumn and winter. To prevent these incidents, workplaces should address four factors: good housekeeping, the quality of walking surfaces, proper footwear, and a safe walking pace.
Good housekeeping is good practice for fall prevention
Good housekeeping is one of the most important factors in preventing falls due to slips and trips. It involves containing and cleaning all spills immediately, marking wet areas clearly, and sweeping debris from floors. In addition, work areas should be kept free of clutter and obstacles by storing equipment properly and keeping walkways clear.
When working outdoors, be on the lookout for slippery conditions, and any debris or obstacles that can be moved to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
In shops, warehouses, or the office, always secure mats, rugs, and carpets with tape or tacks so they’re flat. Do not allow cables to cross walkways. If there is no alternative, cover or tape down the temporary cables to prevent trips. Brightly coloured tape may be helpful to draw attention to a potential tripping hazard. Keep work areas and walkways well lit, making sure that faulty light bulbs and switches are replaced when necessary.
Provide sure footing
It’s important to provide sure footing when working outdoors as much as possible. In slippery conditions, use sand, salt, or another approved anti-slipping agent to provide grip. Ensure work sites are well lit, elevation changes or tripping hazards are marked wherever possible, and workers are wearing the appropriate footwear for the conditions.
Where possible, change or modify the walking surfaces to provide for “sure footing.” Recoat or replace floors or install mats. Other options include using pressure-sensitive abrasive strips, abrasive-filled paint-on coatings, or metal or synthetic decking. Also, resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and can help prevent slips.
Take the right steps with proper footwear
Although it’s the worker who will wear the footwear, employers are responsible for making sure personal protective equipment requirements are being followed in the workplace. When it comes to slips, trips, and falls, assess your environment and the type of work to understand when footwear is required and how inappropriate footwear contributes to the risks.
Since there is no “one size fits all” solution with footwear, it’s recommended to consult with footwear manufacturers for options that are suited to the conditions of your workplace.
When assessing protective footwear for your workers, be sure to consider the following:
- Is the sole made of appropriate anti-slip material for the flooring or walking conditions?
- Is there a risk of the soles quickly becoming dirty or worn out which reduces the slip-resistant qualities?
- Is the shoe secure on the foot (e.g., are laces or a closed back required)?
- Is there a need to provide support to heels and ankles to help reduce twists and sprains?
Mind your pace
Train employees on the steps they can take to avoid falling at work, while making sure they are able to take their time and pay attention to where they are going. Workers should walk at a pace that is suitable for the surface and the tasks they are doing. Pointing feet slightly outward and making wide turns at corners will offer more control.
Workplaces can support a safe environment by identifying and addressing potential risks through regular workplace inspections to identify and correct slip, trip, and fall hazards. Areas to be assessed could include the parking lot, walkways, and other surfaces vulnerable slippery or uneven surfaces.
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well being of workers in Canada by providing information, training, education, systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and injury and illness prevention.
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