Slips, Trips and Falls

Jane was picking up some left over trays at an oilfield camp when she slipped on some spilled food and went ass over tea kettle sending trays and plates flying. Red faced, she picked herself off the floor to the sound of some quiet chuckles from those in the dining area. Television programs such as America’s Funniest Home Videos are full of just such accidents at home, in public or in the workplace. Why? Because we typically find such incidents to be quite humorous once we see that no damage has been done, other than to the victim’s pride. The whole topic of slips, trips and falls is no laughing matter, however.

Annually, there are some 60,000 accidents involving slips, trips and falls in Canada. This type of accident accounts for a full fifteen percent of all loss time accidents. The result of which can be economic hardship, pain, suffering and even death.

All of us with CSI need to take this issue seriously both for ourselves personally as well as the others we are responsible for onsite. We just recently had a near miss that could easily have ended up much more seriously. With the winter season fast

approaching along with the ice and snow, the issue of STF is going to become that much more of a hazard. That being said; however, STF is a hazard that is not limited to the winter season. It is a hazard throughout the year.

How do these types of incidents occur? Slips are a result of too little friction between us and the surface we are on.

This can be as a result of wet or oily surfaces due to spills or weather conditions. It could also be as a result of loose unanchored mats or rugs or simply a case of uneven traction on the walking surface; where one area is slicker than another with little or no indication of the problem.

Trips, of course, occur when the foot collides with an object causing the person to lose balance. This happens when a person’s view is obstructed either by a large load or poor lighting. Clutter, cables, steps or uneven thresholds are often the culprits. Wrinkled carpet or open bottom drawers could also cause a fall.

When we look at these causes, it quickly becomes evident that one of the most important preventative measures has to be good house-keeping. Failing this, no other measure can be fully effective. When spills occur, they should be cleaned up immediately. If that is not possible, the affected area should be barricaded or marked with highly visible signage. All clutter should be removed from our sites. As soon as jobs are completed tools and other materials should be returned to their proper place. We also need to make sure that all loose cables are covered. In office areas drawers closed and check rugs to ensure they are not a hazard.

This brings us to the next most important preventative measure, the improvement of the walking surface. Mats can be installed in areas that are frequently wet or oily. Mats, rugs and carpets that are loose should be secured to the floor in some manner. Failing the replacement of flooring, there are a number of things that can be done to floor surfaces to make them less slippery. There are various types of abrasive strips on the market that can be attached to the floor. As well there is an abrasive paint that can be applied.

Footwear is another crucial piece of the puzzle. What kind of shape are your work boots in? Many of us have work boots that we’ve worn for years and they don’t have the type of traction they once did. Take a look at your boots and ask yourself if it’s time to part company. If you decide it’s time for a new pair, just remember that not all soles are suitable for every kind of surface. Make sure that you check the manufacturer’s specifications for the type of surface they are designed for and choose a pair that is designed for the surfaces you will encounter in your workday. Good, proper fitting footwear does a number of things to prevent accidents besides improving traction. They increase comfort and prevent fatigue. In this way a good pair of work boots makes you less susceptible to an incident.

Improving visibility is another thing that can be done. Avoid carrying large, cumbersome loads that are going to obscure your view of the path you are taking. A simple measure that we carelessly overlook at times is simply to turn on the lights in areas that are too dark. Don’t try to navigate in the dark. If your site has areas that are dark and there is no lighting installed advocate for the installation of lighting in these areas. If this is not possible and you must enter such an area, use a flashlight.

The final strategy is to adjust your pace. On stairs and ladders always make sure you have three point contact. During my teaching career one of my roles was teaching international students from places like Brazil, Mexico and the Orient. One of the things that struck me during my time with these students was just how easily these students fell during our winter months. We’d be walking along when suddenly the international student would disappear.

We’d look back and there they’d be, lying on the sidewalk. From this I concluded that those of us who live in climates such as we have in Canada automatically adjusted our gait to deal with the surface conditions. Those from other parts of the world have to learn how to do that. They don’t have this built-in reflex. Don’t rely on this automatic reflex, however. It is important to make sure we adjust our stride to the walking surface and the task we are engaged in. Take your time and pay attention. It’s a good idea to walk with your feet pointed slightly outwards. When you are going around a corner make sure you make a wide turn rather than cutting sharply and possibly losing your balance.

We recognize that the hazards associated with driving are our number one hazard in our job. Sips trips and falls; however, are number two, so let’s make a conscious effort to survey our locations for this common hazard. Pay attention and stay safe.

With the winter season…. Slips, trips and falls will become that much more of a hazard. Take the steps needed to stay safe!