Safety First and Last: Don’t wipe out
By Jeff ThorneFeatures Business Intelligence
The numbers are staggering! Slips, trips and falls account for approximately 42,000 annual incidents in Canada. These incidents account for about 17 per cent of the “lost time injuries” accepted by workers’ compensation boards across Canada, according to the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.
The majorities of falls occur from a standing a height and happen on the same level, while the remaining falls are from a working height to a lower level. Let’s focus on falls from a standing height only.
Slips occur when there is too little traction between the sole of the footwear and the walking surface. Slips can be a result of wet or oily surfaces, spills, weather conditions, poorly anchored rugs or mats as well as surfaces that do not have the same degree of traction in all areas. In most cases, slips cause us to fall backwards.
Trips occur when your foot strikes an object, causing you to lose balance resulting in a fall. Trips can result from clutter, cables or cords, poorly conditioned steps or walking surfaces, poor lighting or obstructed views.
Additional factors that may contribute to these incidents include fatigue, failing eyesight or the use of bifocals preventing clear view of the walking area, inappropriate, loose or poorly fitting footwear as smooth or worn soles may cause an individual to slip.
So why are these types of falls from a standing height such an issue? Here’s an example. Take an individual walking across the floor, hands full with an obstructed view, contacting an object resulting in a trip. Most of us in our lifetime will have the unfortunate pleasure of being involved in this type of scenario. When we fall, the most common and quickest reaction is to put out our hands or to reach for something to break our fall. A 1.25-centimeter-squared area absorbs most of the energy on the body. This could be the wrists, elbow, hip, tailbone, knee or the back of the head. In our scenario, if this individual was five-foot-nine and weighed 185 pounds, this is approximately 150 kilograms of force absorbed by that small area. Ouch!
The severity of these incidents can be increased by hazards in the surrounding environment. These may include open rotating parts, sharp or hot materials or blunt edges at lower levels.
In order to reduce the frequency and severity of these incidents, one must always focus on prevention. Prevention of slips, trips and falls on the same level rests mainly with solid housekeeping practices. Good housekeeping includes having a policy that identifies employer and worker responsibility with respect to slips, trips and falls. Policy sets the commitment that poor housekeeping practices will not be tolerated and can identify when and how often slip, trip and fall conditions are evaluated.
Additional housekeeping practices include ensuring aisles and passageways are free from clutter and lighting is adequate to ensure glare and shadows are reduced so that trip hazards or irregularities in the surface are clearly visible. Replacing burnt out light bulbs promptly will also assist in this area.
All spills should be cleaned up immediately or marked so that the condition is clearly visible. If wet conditions are commonplace, matting or provisions for dry standing should be provided. Carpeting or matting that doesn’t lay flat should be tacked down or replaced and any irregularities in walking surfaces should be clearly identified.
There have been some great advancements in footwear, however, there is not one type of sole for every type of surface condition. It is essential that the proper footwear be selected.
Last but not least, we can be part of the problem! In short, take your time and pay attention to the path of travel, ensure your footwear, walking pace and stride matches the surface conditions and be conscious of high-traffic areas. Don’t let your ego get in the way and load up your arms obstructing your view. Take two trips if you
Some say that working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it.
Jeff Thorne is manager of training and consulting at Occupational Safety Group
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