Winter brings with it severe weather with snow, ice an even more damp, rainy days than in the summer months which means more hazards when it comes to work and play. Many business owners will be aware that adverse weather brings an increased chance of slips, trips and falls as the conditions underfoot may be wet, slippery and icy. However, while cold, wet weather will certainly contribute to this increase in accidents of this type, slips, trips and falls (ST&F) are possible at anytime and anywhere where people walk. Regardless of age, occupation, location, indoors and outdoors, slips, trips and falls are always a possibility, and not just confined to busy building sites strewn with materials, tools and other objects.
Some companies seem to have reached a state of “fall prevention fatigue” as if they are frustrated by trying different approaches which don’t seem to bring a decrease in ST&F incidents. They have cleaned up walking surfaces, improved lighting, covered cracks, repaired stairways and secured matting yet people continue to fall. So what can be done to improve the situation? Taking a different approach may be necessary, taking into consideration the following issues:
Same level falls can have serious, sometimes fatal repercussions.
Loss of balance has been acknowledged by safety leaders and the most under-reported incidents, perhaps due to people feeling embarrassed having fallen in this way.
Slips and trips do not necessarily cause falls. The cause of a fall is not a slippery surface or a trip hazard, a fall occurs when one’s upper body is not correctly aligned above the lower body whilst moving. People rarely fall when standing still so the key to prevention may well be a poster campaign to raise awareness of the skills required to maintain balance whilst moving.
Trip injuries are most often caused by the “little things” – waist high obstacles are too high to trip over. It’s the knee-level obstacles that require the most care to be taken as these are most likely to turn a trip into a fall.
Measures taken to prevent ST&F can actually make things worse. For example, increasing coefficient of friction can result in an increase in trips when shoe soles stick to the surface or non-skid mats can wear down and become a slip hazard or, if they are sporadically placed they require ongoing adjustments in walking over multiple changes in friction which can lead to loss of balance.
An aging workforce can lead to an increase in ST&F, vision changes with age can make it more difficult to see in lower light conditions or on staircases, etc. Studies also reveal that older brains and nervous systems tend not to react or compensate as quickly for a reduction in balance. Older worker will also take longer to heal following an injury.
In order to make a significant and lasting improvement in the instance of ST&F, it’s essential to transfer the right skills that will actually place people in better control by upgrading their decisions and their own balance.