Maintaining a safe environment for employees, contractors and other visitors to your workplace is an essential element of risk management.  Slips, trips and falls are among the most common and costly workplace accidents across all industries, accounting for 35% of incidents and 65% of lost work days.  The good news is that the majority of slips, trips and falls in the workplace are preventable. 

Slip and fall injuries are costly   

Investing in employee education on preventing slip, trip and fall hazards and ingraining safety best practices into your workplace's culture can lead to substantial long-term cost savings.  Consider that the average cost of a typical slip and fall injury is $20,000 while the cost to defend a slip and fall claim is $50,000.  Additionally, an employee misses an average of 38 work days with a slip-related injury, costing your organization in lost productivity while driving up your insurance costs. 

The industries and jobs most susceptible to slip and fall accidents are:  

  • Construction/Mining
  • Maintenance/Janitorial Personnel
  • Truck Drivers
  • Nurses' Aides/Orderlies
  • Police Officers

Common Causes

The most common causes of slip and fall accidents are poor walking surfaces (55%) and inadequate footwear (24%), accounting for 79% of incidents. 

Top 10 Slip, Trip and Fall Hazards 

  1. Contamination of floors
  2. Poor drainage
  3. Indoor walking surface irregularities
  4. Outdoor walking surface irregularities
  5. Adverse weather conditions, such as ice and snow
  6. Inadequate lighting
  7. Stairs and handrails
  8. Stepstools and ladders
  9. Messy work areas
  10. Improper use of floor mats and runners

Best Practices

All of these hazards can be addressed and mitigated through the implementation of slip, trip and fall prevention best practices:

Workplace and Work Process Design 

Designing your workplace and processes to prevent potential exposure to hazards will keep your employees safe while reducing your potential liability and costs.  Your organization should:

  • Contain work processes to prevent discharge, splatter or spillage of liquids, oils, particles or dust onto the floor.
  • Use drip trays to contain leaks of lubricant from machinery and perform regularly scheduled maintenance.
  • Use adequate ventilation to avoid smoke, steam and condensation of water and grease.
  • Provide adequate lighting to keep work areas, aisles, stairwells and other paths of travel well-lit.
  • Make sure stairs have sufficient hand rails.
  • Provide effective drainage and work platforms.
  • Install slip-resistant floors in high risk areas.

Good Housekeeping 

Maintaining work areas free of clutter and obstacles will greatly reduce hazards and exposure to accidents.  Good housekeeping should start at the top and filter throughout the organization. Instilling cleanliness and organization in your company will ensure accountability and send a message to your employees that management is committed to a safe environment.  Instilling this behavior within the culture of your business will allow it to become second-nature to your employees.

Assess high-risk areas

Conducting proactive and regular assessments of high-risk areas is an effective preventive measure.  The areas that should be assessed regularly include:

  • Transition areas
  • Building entrances
  • Doorways
  • Parking lots
  • Common areas

Maintain Mats and Runners 

When it comes to mats and runners, attention to detail can reduce accidents.

  • Select the appropriate mat based on location and performance needs.  For example, a kitchen may require a different mat than an entranceway.
  • Limit the difference in height between floor surfaces and mats to no more than ¼ to ½ inch.
  • Inspect mats and runners so they are not curled.
  • Inspect regularly for deterioration or build-up of contaminants.

Pay attention to footwear

A simple yet commonly overlooked aspect of your prevention program is requiring the use of proper footwear.  Either provide or hold your employees accountable for wearing slip-resistant footwear.  Features of footwear that should be taken into account include:

  • Tread design
  • Harness and shape of sole and heel
  • Abrasion, oil, chemical and heat resistance

Footwear that becomes damaged or worn out should be replaced immediately. 

Learning To "Walk" Again 

Walking is an activity that most of us do not put any thought into; however, adjusting how you walk in certain situations and being cognizant of your surroundings can prevent injuries.  Some useful tips include:

  • Avoid "distracted walking," including walking while texting or emailing.
  • Turn sideways and take short steps when walking on slopes.
  • Shorten your stride when hazards are present or when walking on slippery surfaces.  Point your toes slightly to the sides i.e. "the penguin walk."
  • If possible, keep your hands free for better balance.
  • Turn slightly toward the wall on stairs and use the handrail.

Detailed incident reporting

If an accident does occur in spite of your best efforts, an immediate response is necessary.  Document exactly what occurred, including who was involved and where, why and how it happened. Learning the details of an incident is useful for detecting trends and it can be used to put measures into place to prevent recurrences.  Additionally, taking a detailed account of the accident will reduce the likelihood of fraud, which can save you and your business additional dollars and headaches.

Slips, trips and falls are a serious issue that can cause substantial financial damage to your company.  Effective inspection, maintenance and housekeeping policies and procedures are critical elements of prevention.  Embedding safety training and education efforts into your culture, setting a positive example and holding employees accountable can make a significant impact.

For more information, view our on-demand webinar on Slips, Trips and Fall Prevention or talk to your HUB advisor about how to engage a HUB Risk Services expert in assessing your risk and helping you implement best practices.