It’s Winter! Let’s avoid Slips, Trips and Falls
- Kevin Bartsch, Assistant Director Workers Compensation Pool Operations
Each winter, we discuss safety issues involving slips, trips, and falls. We return to these concerns annually because they continue to be some of the most frequent and expensive claims we deal with every year. Thankfully, they are also among the most avoidable and preventable accidents that occur all too often at our schools.
We’ve been fortunate that winter thus far has been relatively mild. However, we can’t forget that we are still in Montana, and we thus must allow that significant winter storms will likely arrive soon enough; so, now is a good time to discuss the important topic of preventing slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. Thankfully, 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 and familiar measures to identify and reduce the causes of these all-too-common accidents.
When it is snowy, select appropriate footwear to help ensure good traction. Use Ice Trackers or Yak Trak-type devices to help with traction, and keep a small bottle of sand in your car to use when you encounter troublesome ice patches. Use the “3-Point Contact” method when exiting or entering your vehicle. As you’ll recall, this method involves placing 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 slippery conditions. When entering or exiting buses, use the handrails or grab bars to prevent slipping. Also, keep in mind that slips do not happen exclusively due to snow and ice conditions. Wet floors, spills, or any kind of clutter, such as loose paper, can also be slippery and dangerous. Finally, make sure the appropriate staff are made aware of potential problems to help ensure the situation is addressed as soon as possible.
Trips are another claim area we can work together with our colleagues to address. For starters, be sure maintenance and other staff maintain clear pathways and that housekeeping mitigates the risks their routine work can create when undertaken in public spaces, especially common walkways. When clutter 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. Also, extension cords can cause tripping hazards. So, be sure cords are appropriately covered with tape or a mat, and also make sure that other work-related implements are attended to with an eye for injury prevention. To these ends, take a walk around facilities with some frequency to ensure no new holes or uneven surfaces haven’t developed on sidewalks or other walking surfaces. If necessary, make appropriate patches. Finally, encourage your staff to focus, literally and figuratively, on safety when moving about the building, especially when they are carrying heavy items or multiple items, as distracted colleagues are often the victims of tripping events.
Falls are another significant area of concern, especially where ladders are concerned. These incidences are all too common and typically avoidable sources of injury, and they are often surprisingly serious because they involve heights and awkward landings. So, please ensure ladders are used in the correct manner, and, though you might be tempted, don’t use the top of the ladder as a step. Instead, get the appropriate tool for the job. Further, insist that under no circumstances should anyone 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 spending time in the hospital. And if a lift of any sort is required to reach items involved in maintenance work, ALWAYS ensure that 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, make sure that everyone reads the manufacturer’s directions and follows the safety guidelines.
If your facilities are hosting events such as concerts or tournaments, make sure outside walkways are clear, sanded as needed, and accessible. We don’t want any of our fans to miss an event due to a fall! On the inside of the facility, certain items such as chairs, mats, and other debris are cleared from any walking areas.
Finally, if you see something, say something. We all need a reminder now and again so as to keep top of mind safe practices. 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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