Slips, trips and falls injure more than a million Americans every year, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Center for Disease Control. These types of accidents account for an average of 11 days of lost work and 15 to 17 percent of all workers’ compensation expenditures. Most of these injuries are entirely preventable if facility managers and property owners take a proactive stance on safety.
What Causes Slips, Trips and Falls in a Commercial Office Building or Other Facility?
A slip or trip does not always end in a fall, but when it does, the injury can be severe. This is especially true if the trip or slip results in a fall to a lower surface level, such as when a worker trips at the top of a staircase and falls to the floor below. However, even if the individual does not fall farther than the surface on which he or she is standing, injuries can be moderate to severe.
Physical Causes of Slipping
Slipping typically occurs when the person’s foot does not have proper traction on the surface.
- Wet floors, sidewalks and ramps can result in a loss of traction.
- Grease, mud, oil, spilled drinks, food, sand and spilled powders can also cause people to slip.
- A waxed and highly polished floor may be aesthetically appealing, but it can present a slipping hazard, especially if there is any moisture present on the soles of a person’s shoes.
- Unsecured rugs or mats can slide when someone steps on them.
- Whether ladders are free-standing or affixed to the building, the rungs can pose a slipping hazard while climbing or descending.
Physical Causes of Tripping
The physical environment can present a number of tripping hazards in any building. However, many of these hazards can be eliminated with relatively little effort.
- Computer cables and extension cords are a common tripping hazard in many offices.
- Open drawers on file cabinets as well as open cabinet doors or drawers can increase the risk of injuries.
- Uneven thresholds, loose tiles, uneven floor surfaces and gaps between tiles or thresholds can also be tripping hazards.
- Obstacles such as storage containers, cardboard boxes, toolboxes or equipment in hallways or near doors are potential hazards.
The Human Factor
Despite your best efforts, not every potential hazard is under your control. Your employees and guests can have attributes or behaviors that increase the risk of an accident.
- People with poor eyesight may simply be unable to see potential hazards.
- People tend to be more careless when they are extremely tired or ill.
- Carrying bulky or heavy objects can be risky, especially if the bearer’s vision is partially or completely obscured by the load.
- Running, walking too fast or just getting in too much of a rush can lead to an accident.
- People do not always pay proper attention to their surroundings when walking. They may be texting, making a call or scanning a newspaper.
- Some people may arrive while under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol or prescribed medications.
- People do not always choose appropriate footwear. For example, they may wear slick-soled shoes when it is raining outside, thick platform styles that they are not accustomed to wearing or heels that can become stuck in a floor grate.
Common Types of Injuries
The types of injuries that may be suffered at your location depend on factors such as the ages, overall health and gender of the injured party. However, the following are the most common types of injuries suffered when someone trips, slips or falls.
- Sprains and strains
- Contusions and bruises
- Dislocated joints
- Scrapes and cuts
- Broken bones
- Head trauma
Many parts of the body are commonly affected: ankle, knee, back, wrist, elbow, neck, foot, shoulder, hip, head, fingers, toes
Why You Should Care About Accidents
Whether the injured party is a visitor or an employee, a trip, slip or fall can have significant consequences for you. You can incur financial losses, but you may also face a reduction in employee morale or damage to your public image.
Your Potential Costs if the Injured Party Is a Customer, Vendor or Other Visitor
- Potential tangible costs include paying for the injured person’s medical treatment and lost wages.
- Potential intangible costs include negative word-of-mouth reporting of the circumstances surrounding the injury, which can damage your reputation.
- It is also possible that the injured party could file a lawsuit to recover damages beyond medical expenses and wages. He or she may seek compensation for physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma or expenses to cover household help during recovery.
Your Potential Costs if the Injured Party Is an Employee
- When an experienced employee must take time off to recuperate from an injury, productivity can suffer. Another employee may need to handle tasks with which he or she is not familiar.
- You might have to bring in a temporary replacement, which in all likelihood will cost you more than the injured employee’s salary. The temporary employee will need to be trained, so you or another employee will have to devote time to training rather than handling normal tasks.
- Workers’ compensation insurance premiums may increase, particularly if this is not the first such accident at your location in recent times.
- There is always the potential for a lawsuit if the employee’s attorney feels that your negligence contributed to the injury.
Furthermore, your employee can incur expenses that are not covered by insurance or workers’ compensation.
- Deductibles and co-pays
- Reduced income
- Cost of hiring someone to handle household chores such as cleaning or lawn care
In addition, an injured employee may suffer from depression due to the disability whether it is permanent or temporary. It is also possible that the stress of the situation could damage the employee’s overall health or cause friction in his or her relationships.
How to Reduce Accidents
Preventing accidents requires a combination of housekeeping and employee training, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an agency of the Centers for Disease Control. The NIOSH offers the following recommendations for preventing accidents.
- Keep all hallways and aisles clear of clutter, boxes or other potential hazards.
- Ensure all areas have proper lighting and promptly replace any bulbs that burn out.
- Do not allow electrical cords or cables to cross a walking path.
- Stock paper towels, “wet floor” signs and other supplies for cleaning up spills throughout the building at convenient locations.
- Place water-absorbent mats at entrances, making sure that they are large enough for people to take several steps before encountering a smoother surface.
- Train employees on the proper footwear for each job or work area.
- Encourage employees to be vigilant to risks and to take steps to eliminate them, such as mopping up spills or placing warning signs.
- Train employees on the proper way to transport loads that might obscure vision.
- Secure all cables or electrical cords to the floor, wall or desk.
- Instruct employees to avoid reading, texting, calling or other distractions while they are walking.
- If any employees will be required to use ladders, ensure that they are properly trained.
In addition, you should discuss the issue with your janitorial provider.
- Ensure that they use non-skid waxes and floor soaps that do not leave behind a slippery residue.
- Ensure that they place warning signs appropriately when cleaning or polishing floors.
- Inquire about their training program to ensure that their technicians are properly trained.
- Ask that cleaning technicians inform you of potential hazards that they discover while performing their duties.
As a property manager or owner, you naturally want to reduce your potential liabilities and safeguard the health of your employees and visitors. Taking a proactive stance against accidents caused by slip, trips and falls can help accomplish your goals.
We partner with building owners and managers who want to be more proactive when it comes to safety. Give us a call or send us an email to schedule a call to discuss your needs and how we can help.