Slips, Trips and Falls
By Kevin Bartsch, Assistant Director Workers Compensation Pool Operations
Although we are dealing with the unprecedented difficulties associated with a pandemic, and despite that, we have received little snow thus far this winter, it is as important as ever that we remain vigilant when it comes to preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in the workplace. We can avoid many of these injuries, along with most of the financial costs and the related toll on morale, productivity, and human resources, if we take the necessary measures to identify and reduce the causes of these all-too-common accidents.
While we haven’t had much snow and ice yet this winter, we need to be thinking about safely dealing with it when it invariably shows up. So, when it is snowy, start by thinking about appropriate footwear to ensure traction is good. Using Ice Trackers or Yak Trak type devices on ice is a good choice.
Also, keeping a small bottle of sand in your car to use as a “self-sander” will help when you encounter that unexpected ice patch. To be better prepared in the event of a possible slip, always use a three-point contact, meaning, when exiting or entering your vehicle, place a hand on the door, a hand on the steering wheel, and your feet on the ground. Finally, slips do not happen exclusively due to snow and ice conditions at our school facilities; so, always be looking around your schools for any wet floors or clutter, such as loose papers that could be a hazard for a slip. A water spill or poor housekeeping resulting in debris on floors are examples of situations that can increase the potential for a slip event. Make sure the appropriate staff is made aware of having the situation remedied as soon as possible.
Trips are another claim area we can work together with our colleagues to decrease by being vigilant, partnering with maintenance and other staff to maintain clear pathways, and ensuring that housekeeping mitigates the risks their routine work creates. When items such as backpacks, chairs, garbage cans, and boxes are left in the wrong places, especially in the line of busy walkways — chances for a tripping event increase significantly. Similarly, if there are extension cords in use, they, too, can cause problems; it’s thus best to ensure that the chords are appropriately covered with tape or a mat and that other-work-related implements are attended to with an eye for injury-prevention. Finally, encourage your staff to focus, literally and figuratively, on safety when moving about the building, especially when carrying heavy items or multiply items at once, as distracted colleagues are often the victims of tripping events.
Unfortunately, most of us do not have gymnast-like abilities and are woefully unable to “stick the landing” when falling from the forbidden top rung of a ladder or tumbling from atop an unsteady chair stacked unwisely on a table or another chair. The best we should hope for when we tempt fate in these ways is a one-point deduction by terrified onlookers; the worst, and unfortunately more likely, outcome is a painful break and a costly claim. In brief, falls are the all-too-common source of injury and are often surprisingly serious because they involve heights and awkward falls. So, to lessen the likelihood, your employees experience an extended stay in a hospital bed eating bland food and watching bad TV, make sure they know to safely use ladders or step stools when reaching things above head height. Further, insist that they NEVER, and I mean NEVER, step on a wheeled chair to get to an item they need to reach. The little bit of extra time and due diligence it takes to get the appropriate stool or ladder will be invaluable and certainly preferable to time spent in a hospital. And if a lift of any sort is needed to be used to reach items involved in maintenance work, ALWAYS ensure the only staff using the device have been appropriately trained on its use and safety features. NEVER allow students, or anyone not adequately trained, to use man-lifts, ladders, or scaffolds. Finally, do all that you can to ensure everyone reads the manufacturer’s directions and follows the safety guidelines.
As we enter what everyone hopes will be a much more normal 2021, please be mindful, aware, and vigilant when it comes to helping to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls in your facilities.
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