Slips, Trips, and Falls
By Kevin Bartsch, Assistant Director Workers Compensation Pool Operations
Even though winter was a bit delayed in its arrival this year, recent storms have now provided us with snowfall over nearly all of the state. So, it is a good time to once again discuss the important topic of 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.
Now that winter storms have hit and more are will no doubt soon be coming, we need to be thinking about how to safely deal with snow. For starters, when it is snowy, select appropriate footwear to ensure good traction. 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 can help when you encounter that unexpected ice patch. Also, to avoid a possible slip when exiting or entering your vehicle, place a hand on the door, a hand on the steering wheel, and your feet on the ground – this three-point contact method can make a world of difference in these situations. Also, keep in mind that slips do not happen exclusively due to snow and ice conditions at our school facilities; so, be watchful for wet floors or any kind of slippery clutter, such as loose papers. A water spill or debris on floors resulting from poor housekeeping can often increase the potential for a slip event. Finally, make sure the appropriate staff are made aware so as to ensure the situation is addressed as soon as possible.
Trips are another claim area we can work together with our colleagues to address by being vigilant, by partnering with maintenance and other staff to maintain clear pathways, and by ensuring that housekeeping mitigates the risks their routine work can create. When items such as backpacks, chairs, garbage cans, and boxes are left in the wrong places – and especially when they are left in the line of busy walkways – the chances for a tripping event increase significantly. Similarly, if there are extension cords in use, they, too, can cause problems. It’s best to ensure that the cords 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 they are carrying heavy items or multiply items, as distracted colleagues are often the victims of tripping events.
Unfortunately, most of us do not have gymnast-like abilities and are thus 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 – and of course, the best we should hope for when we tempt fate in these ways is a 1-point deduction by terrified onlookers; the worst, and unfortunately more likely, outcome is a painful break and an exceptionally expensive claim. In brief, falls are all-too-common and typically avoidable sources of injury, and they are often surprisingly serious because they involve heights and awkward landings. So, to decrease the likelihood that any of your employees experience a long stay in a hospital bed eating bland food and watching bad TV, make sure they know how to use ladders and step stools safely when reaching things above head height. Further, insist that they NEVER, and I really 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 properly trained on its use and safety features. Please NEVER allow students, or anyone not properly 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.
Finally, if you see something, say something. We all need a reminder now and again if we’ve forgotten safe practices or might be tempted to take a quick shortcut. So, if you witness a co-worker engaging in unsafe actions such as those noted above, offer to help them perform the action safely or to get the appropriate equipment.
Now that winter is here to stay, please be mindful, aware, and watchful when it comes to helping to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls in your facilities.
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