Slips, trips and falls are some of the most common accidents in many kinds of workplaces, and these incidents often result in injuries that prevent people from doing their jobs.
Businesses should take steps to reduce the hazards that cause slips, trips and falls such as implementing housekeeping procedures for floors, using salt or sand on icy patches of ground, keeping cords out of walkways and installing traction tape.
But what can workers do to reduce the chance of injury if a fall does occur? We often hear phrases like “break the fall” and “protect your head,” but in the moment a fall happens, most people’s instincts kick in, which can actually increase the risk of injury.
For example, many people try to catch themselves by putting out their arms, but this can lead to broken wrists.
With a little planning and practice, though, workers can reduce the impacts of falls. To educate employees, workplaces could spend some time—perhaps during a toolbox talk or safety meeting—sharing tips for falling safely.
Safe Falling Tips
- Don’t tense up; let your body go limp. Tensing your body can increase the risk of injury, while going limp will allow your body to “roll into the fall.”
- Breathe out. Doing so will help your body relax.
- Bend your limbs rather than locking your arms and trying to break your fall. Locking your joints can increase injury.
- Fold yourself “like an accordion”; bend at your knees and hips. This can decrease the height you fall from by helping lower your body toward the ground.
- Protect your head. If you’re falling forward, keep your head up. If you’re falling backward or sideways, tuck in your chin.
- If falling backward, try to round your back to help you roll with the fall.
That might seem like a lot of things to remember in the second or two it takes for a fall to occur, so it’s recommended that you and your workers practice falling on a soft surface so steps like letting your muscles go limp and breathing out become more natural reactions. Otherwise, when workers actually fall they will be more likely to try to catch themselves, even if they’ve read a list of tips like this one.
Avoid Slips, Trips and Falls in the Workplace
As the best way to avoid injuries is to prevent accidents, workers should also take basic steps to avoid falling in the first place. In addition to assisting in an employer’s procedures for preventing falls (like cleaning up spills or making sure tripping hazards aren’t left in aisles), everyone should do the following:
- Be alert to your surroundings. If the floor is wet, walk more slowly. If a room is dim, tread carefully.
- Wear shoes with appropriate traction. Some industrial employers will reimburse employees for this type of footwear.
- If you see hazards like uneven walkways, icy spots or spills, report them to the appropriate people.
- Always make sure you can see where you’re going. Don’t carry items that block your view.
- If a handrail is available, use it.
These tips are commonsense, but it’s easy to make a simple mistake when you’re tired or distracted. Paying attention plays a key role in staying safe at work and avoiding slips, trips and falls.
Finally, if falls from heights are hazards at your workplace, be sure to use appropriate fall protection and follow rules for working on ladders.
Want to see what “practices falls” look like? The Risk Management Department at Texas Woman’s University has some helpful video demonstrations. Need to remind employees about slipping hazards? Try posting caution signs or labels in dangerous areas.
- Fall Protection in the Workplace: OSHA’s Guidelines– creativesafetysupply.com
- Provide Safe Walking Surfaces– creativesafetypublishing.com
- 5 Ways to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls– blog.creativesafetysupply.com
- 7 Places to Use Anti-Slip Tape– safetyblognews.com
- Safety Shoes – 8 Ways They Protect You– realsafety.org
- Prevent Slip and Fall Accidents– aislemarking.com
- Anti-Slip Floor Tape Prevents Slips and Falls– floor-tape.com
- 10 Safety Signs to Improve Your Workplace– lean-news.com