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Workplace Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of accidents in general industry. According to OSHA’s statistics they cause 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities. One does not need to fall from great heights to be severely injured. Tripping over uneven surfaces, wires, chords, obstructions, etc. at ground surface can be crippling or fatal as well. Preventing falls, at any height, is the focus this Fall.
The best way to minimize slips, trips, and falls is for us to be aware of our surroundings. Situational awareness is extremely useful and necessary in all that we do, whether at work, home, or play. Being cognizant of our surroundings, keeping our work area clean, and putting tools back after use, are simple ways to minimize slips, trips, and fall hazards. Simply put, beyond aesthetics, improving employee morale, and enhancing efficiency, housekeeping is important in controlling injuries due to slips, trips and falls.
In recognition of the prevalence of fall hazards and the alarming statistics of fall injuries and fatalities, OSHA has issued several standards for both general industry and construction regarding fall hazards in the workplace. These include regulations for walking and working surfaces; guarding floor and wall openings and holes; stairs; ladder design, inspection, and use; and working at heights.
Being familiar with these regulations can help you identify hazards and take steps to prevent slips, trips, and falls in your workplace.
Fall Protection OSHA Guidelines:
- Guarding floor holes into which a worker can accidentally fall in by use of railing and toe board or a floor hole cover.
- Providing guardrail and toe board around every open-sided platform, floor or runway that is 4 feet or higher off the ground or next level.
- Providing guardrail and toe board around dangerous equipment (e.g., conveyor belts, mixers, vats of acid, etc.) regardless of height.
- Providing other means of fall protection required for work at heights above 4 feet (e.g. active fall protection system).
- Use of fall protection at special heights (e.g. aerial platforms, scaffolds, low slope roof, etc.).
- Training of workers about job hazards and the proper use and care of personal protective equipment in a language that they can understand.
Hiearchy of Fall Protection:
- Eliminate the need to work at height
- Use passive system (guard rails, hole covers, etc.)
- Use restraint system; aerial platforms, scaffolds
- Use fall arrest system
- Warning system and special procedures (not desireable)
Required Safety Considerations for Fall Arrests:
- Calculate the clearance distance in order to select the proper fall arrest system. If clearance is inadequate such that the fall arrest system will not be effective, consider alternate means of fall protection (e.g. restraint).
- Assess the potential for swing fall. This can occur in a fall when a person is off to the side of the anchorage when falling. A pendulum swing of 6’ has the same amount of energy as a vertical fall of 6’. A swing fall into a wall, rebar, protrusions, etc. can cause serious injury or death.
- Have a rescue plan. This is the most overlooked part of a fall arrest system. A suspended victim must be rescued promptly to reduce injuries caused by Suspension Trauma (venous blood pooling). A rescue plan MUST be in place when using a Fall Arrest system (e.g. use of aerial lifts). A variety of self-rescue systems are available through various fall protection equipment manufacturers. Equipment is also available to reduce Suspension Trauma while awaiting rescue. Relying on public emergency services is inadequate and may take too long. Have a plan and practice it.
Before Use of Fall Protection:
- Train workers about recognizing fall hazards and limitations, proper selection, use, fitting, and care of equipment.
- Choose the proper industry/task specific equipment. Manufacturer’s representatives are available to assist with this.
- Know the requirements and limitations of each type of fall protection system.
- Make sure that the user understands the importance of properly adjusting the harness to avoid falling out of the harness, choking, injury to the shoulders, arms, inner thighs, and groin areas, or making rescue difficult. Properly fitted harness can reduce
- Suspension Trauma.
- Inspect before each use the entire component (anchorage, connectors, harnesses, lanyards, restraints, etc.).
- Check expiration dates on harnesses and lanyards.
- Do not use expired equipment unless checked by a Competent Person or re-certified by manufacturer.
- When discarding expired equipment, cut up the equipment so someone else cannot pick it up from the trash and use it elsewhere.
- Empty pockets, secure tools on tool lanyards, and store properly to avoid faster degradation beyond expiration date.
- Have a Rescue Plan.
Many fall injuries occur on level ground when people trip over unexpected objects in their path. Help eliminate trip hazards by training employees to follow these do’s and don’ts.
- Keep work areas neat and tidy, putting tools, materials, and other items away after use.
- Pick up items off the floor, even if they didn’t put them there.
- Step over or around obstructions, not on them.
- Walk slowly and change directions slowly, especially when carrying a load.
- Watch for changes in floor level—such as a few steps or a ramp up or down.
- Report lighting problems, such as burned-out bulbs, to maintenance right away.
- Use a flashlight if they need more light leaving the facility in the dark.
- Don’t leave boxes, bags, tools, or other materials on the floor.
- Don’t block walkways with hand trucks, equipment, or materials.
- Don’t leave cords or cables in walkways.
- Don’t place anything on stairs.
- Don’t leave drawers open.
In summary, to elevate our height of confidence it is critical to:
Applicable Standards for Fall Protection
- Recognize fall hazards.
- Use the hierarchy of fall protection to protect our personnel.
- Provide training to workers in the language they will understand.
- Select the proper equipment. Engage experts when necessary.
- Properly use and care for the fall protection equipment.
- Have a Rescue Plan and practice it.