On this blog, we focus a lot on worker safety hazards that can have very serious consequences — like combustible dust, which, if ignited, can produce an explosion powerful enough to level a building, and silica dust, which can cause fatal lung disease. When these hazards aren’t properly mitigated and an incident occurs, the results can be devastating for businesses and their employees.
But these certainly aren’t the only problems that can occur when dust or other materials are allowed to accumulate. Slip, trip, and fall incidents happen in every industry, every day. And while they aren’t likely to make news headlines, they can be costly.
The business consequences of slips, trips, and falls
- In 2017, 227,760 nonfatal slip, trip, and fall injuries resulted in days away from work. That’s almost 26% of the total number of injuries that led to absences. Almost 10% of those injuries (22,010) were in manufacturing.
- According to the National Floor Safety Institute, slips and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims and the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 55 years and older.
- The median number of days away from work after a slip, trip, or fall is 12. In addition to medical treatment, workers injured in slip-and-fall accidents receive an average of $17,200 to $27,500, one survey found.
- More than half of slips, trips, and falls are caused by a problem with the walking surface, such as the floors being slippery.
To summarize the findings:
- A huge number of slip, trip, and fall injuries result in work absences every year.
- These injuries not only harm workers, but also cost companies a lot of money.
- The majority of these injuries can be prevented through proper floor cleaning and maintenance.
How to prevent slips, trips, and falls
Not every slip, trip, or fall is preventable — we all trip sometimes. But, as EHS expert Karen Hamel wrote in EHS Today, “Most people don’t slip and fall on clean, dry, and level floors.”
In that simple sentence lies the answer to preventing these incidents: make sure your floors are clean, dry, and level.
In her article, Hamel provides recommendations for how to perform a walkway audit to identify floor safety issues. Here are the three main things to look for:
- Uneven walking surfaces — All walking surfaces will degrade over time, and Hamel notes that variations as small as ¼” can cause someone to trip and fall. In many manufacturing plants, the floors are concrete, which can develop cracks and potholes. In facilities where the floor is coated (like a food plant), watch for the coating to chip or wear down.
- Wet and dry contaminants — Wet processes, dry material accumulation, and spills can all cause floors to be slippery. Hamel notes that keeping floors dry isn’t always possible (e.g., in plants where wet processes are used). In these cases, she recommends solutions like texturized floor finishes, raised grates, and absorbent matting. Dry contaminants, like dust, shavings, and even sugar, can be kept from becoming hazardous via good housekeeping. And spills should always be cleaned up immediately.
- Improper cleaning — Finally, evaluate your cleaning methods, especially in facilities with a variety of floor surfaces. “A common mistake is to use one type of cleaner or cleaning method for all surfaces,” Hamel writes. “This simplifies purchasing, but is probably not the best strategy for eliminating slip, trip, and fall hazards.” She recommends turning to your suppliers for cleaning advice.
Don’t let slips, trips, and falls be the cause of costly injuries to your employees. If you haven’t given much thought to your floor safety program, now’s the time. Contact us to learn more about good housekeeping practices and floor cleaning equipment that can help keep your workers safe.
For more information about floor safety, we recommend this three-article series on CleanLink: