This article discusses what you need to know about slips, trips, and falls: definition, causes, existing regulations, and ways to prevent them.
Published 31 Jul 2023
Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common hazards in the workplace. They put many workers at risk of sprains, strains, cuts, bruises, fractures, and other injuries. At worst, they can also lead to death, especially in high-risk occupations such as construction. But with adequate training and safety practices, companies can keep their personnel safe from these hazards.
Slips occur when there is little to no traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Since the friction is too small to hold the feet on the ground, a person can lose their balance. For example, if a supermarket staff member runs on a wet produce aisle, they will most likely slip on the floor.
On the other hand, tripping happens when a person’s foot hits an object or steps down to a lower, uneven surface. Any of the two can disrupt a person’s balance and make them lose their footing. For example, an electrical engineer can trip on tangled cables lying on the floor.
Falls are the number one cause of fatalities among construction workers. They can happen to anyone if they stumble and fall too far off their center balance. For example, an electrician can fall from a ladder while fixing a light bulb.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classifies them into two types:
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports alarming rates of slip, trip, and fall incidents in 2021. Their most recent data show that slips, trips, and falls are among the top causes of fatal and non-fatal injuries in the workplace.
This section contains key data points from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) and Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII).
Note: Detailed nonfatal data for 2021 is not currently available since BLS transitioning from an annual to a biennial publication schedule.
The National Safety Council lists the following industries as those that have the highest risk of slip, trip, and fall incidents:
Slips, trips, and falls can happen due to many reasons—from uneven working surfaces to unsafe ladder positions. Knowing the causes can help managers assess risk factors and devise ways to prevent them.
This section lists the causes and risk factors for each type of hazard.
Slips, trips, and falls can result in severe and life-changing injuries, and unfortunately, they can even be fatal. To give you a comprehensive idea, here is a list of the most frequently occurring injuries associated with slips, trips, and falls hazards:
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards 1910 Subpart D (Walking-Working Surfaces) provides general standards for walking-working surfaces. These surfaces include passageways, warehouses, storage rooms, service rooms, working areas, and more.
The 1910.22 Regulations outline several points for safe working surfaces as follows:
Fortunately, most slip, trip, and fall incidents are avoidable. By using the right safety tools and by training employees, companies can prevent these incidents from happening in their workplaces.
Safety officers should take note of the following aspects to keep their workplaces and fellow employees safe from slips, trips, and falls.
How to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace
A slip-free workspace begins with housekeeping. Removing clutter helps tidy up the floor and makes it walkable for everyone. Start good housekeeping habits with the following tips:
Dimly lit walkways can also put people at risk of trips and falls. When they cannot see their path clearly, they might knock over objects and fall on the floor.
Workers can navigate through spaces better if there is enough light. Given this, it’s best to place proper lighting in access and egress points such as halls, ramps, stairs, and exits.
Safety signs and markers are a must in preventing slips, trips, and falls. Installing them warns people about walking in hazardous spaces to keep them safe.
Different zones require specific safety signs. For example, establishments place the “Caution: Wet Floor” sign to alert guests of slippery floors. Meanwhile, construction safety uses warning lines, control zones, and designated areas to mark which areas are passable or restricted.
Spills are one of the most common fall hazards in the workplace. They come in different forms—from a splash of soda in a cafeteria to a bucket of water soaking the hospital floor. Wherever the ground is slippery, feet lose traction and go off balance.
In case of spills, have them cleaned as soon as possible. Mop and sweep or dry any substance on the floor that could slip or trip another person. Proper cleaning ensures that the floor is free from hazardous elements so that people can walk safely. To keep water from the floor, you may also consider various dewatering methods and equipment such as a sump pump.
Aside from keeping the floors clean, it’s also important to equip workers with proper footwear. The right shoes protect their feet from harmful elements that can cause them to slip, trip, or fall.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requires the use of non-slip shoes with good traction. These shoes should also protect workers from static electricity, falling objects, explosions, exposure to hazardous substances, and other risks.
Moreover, avoid wearing sandals, canvas shoes, high heels, and open-toed shoes while on work surfaces. These types of footwear can increase one’s risk of getting injured.
Fall protection goes beyond simply mopping off spills from the floor. It also involves paying attention to the quality of walking and working surfaces.
Modifying the floor space can go a long way in ensuring safety from slips, trips, and falls. Here are some of the best practices that companies can explore in improving their floor quality:
Lastly, a well-thought safety plan cements all efforts in promoting fall protection, especially in high-risk workspaces. This plan should include the following:
Aside from these tips, employers, safety officers, and authorized personnel can also conduct regular slips, trips, and falls toolbox talks. These safety talks aim to enhance employee awareness and emphasize the risks associated with their tasks, thereby providing them with better protection against fall-related injuries.
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OSHA provides guidelines on safe working surfaces that companies can integrate into their safety plan. For example, the table below shows the distance requirements for fall protection.
OSHA also includes specifications for safety equipment such as harnesses, lines, safety nets, stair railings, handrails, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) is an all-in-one digital platform that you can use to streamline your fall protection efforts. It offers tools to help you manage fall safety inspections, provide OSHA safety and construction toolbox talks, other related toolbox talk templates, and more. Use SafetyCulture to:
Some of the most common causes of slips, trips, and falls are wet spills, cluttered walkways, uneven surfaces, poor lighting, weak or damaged ladders, improper use of or not using fall protection equipment, and lack of handrails or guardrails.
As a business, it is the responsibility of employers to keep their workers safe and protected from workplace accidents such as slips, trips, and falls. Aside from that, preventing this workplace hazard is important because it helps avoid negative financial impact, ensure legal and regulatory compliance, increase productivity, enhance business reputation, and improve employee morale and satisfaction.
OSHA’s primary standard for slip, trip, and fall hazards falls under the General Industry Walking-Working Surface standard. Some safety tips emphasized in this standard are to ensure that workers are trained to protect themselves from the hazard, use the right tools as needed, and equip workers with proper ladders.
While there’s no foolproof way of preventing all slips, trips, and falls, the majority of incidents can be mitigated by implementing proper safety measures, maintaining a hazard-free environment, and promoting awareness and safe practices among employees.
This template offers a comprehensive risk assessment report of typical slip, trip, and fall hazards. Identify potential hazards in the workplace, provide detailed comments, and assign actions to designated representatives. Take the first step in keeping your workplace safe with this template.
Use this template when conducting safety toolbox talks in the workplace. This OSHA toolbox talk template summarizes the key points in the session to help employees retain information. Ask employees to fill this out after the talk and confirm their participation easily with a digital signature.
This template assists construction site inspectors in implementing safety protocols when working at heights. Begin by providing your background information. Then, define potential risks and assess the current practices (training, planning, fall protection systems, etc.). Finish your inspection with recommendations to improve safety when working at heights.
Ensure ladder safety with this handy and easy-to-use checklist. Fill out the ladder specifications (type, length, class, weight supported), document any defects, and rate the equipment’s conditions. Lastly, jot down your comments and sign off the form with your full name and digital signature.
Use this checklist to perform safety inspections on your workplace. Walk around the office and check the condition of working areas, furniture, equipment, cabinets, shelves, and outdoor spaces using your mobile device. Implement safety procedures and point out possible hazards in the recommendations section. Promote safety in the office with this checklist!
Leizel Estrellas is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. Her academic and professional training as a researcher allows her to write meaningful articles that create a lasting impact. As a content specialist, she strives to promote a culture of safety in the workplace through accessible and reader-friendly content. With her high-quality work, she is keen on helping businesses across industries identify issues and opportunities to improve every day.
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