Slips, Trips, and Falls in Construction

All you have to do is look around........the potential for slipping, tripping and falls is everywhere. At home, on the job and during recreation. It appears that slips and falls are just a fact of life and nothing can be done about them. Well, that's just not true and that's what this program's all about. Preventing slips, trips and falls on construction sites.

Let's explain some terminology, then we'll discuss how to prevent these potentially harmful injuries. A foot-level fall is one when the person falls to the same level on which he or she was walking or standing. There are basically two kinds of hazards that account for more than 90 percent of all foot-level falls. Slipping hazards and tripping hazards. A person may slip on grease or wet surfaces and fall. A person could trip and fall over some obstacle on a floor surface.

People slip and fall because of one or more of the following causes:

1. Traction robbing substances on the floor surface, such as water, oil, grease, sand, mud, ice and other substances.

2. Flooring offers too little traction, such as metal floor worn smooth from abrasive traffic, or smooth finished concrete.

3. Traction robbing condition associated with shoes, such as hard leather heels, metal heel plates, worn heels, slippery substances on soles or heels.

4. Another factor in slipping in falling is the individual is not watching where he or she is going. In other words, not paying attention.

These factors present us with some hazard recognition and prevention techniques, such as inspecting walkways and floor surfaces regularly. Check daily for slip and fall hazards. Be alert for drips or spills from oil, grease, liquids, water and slippery granular material. Promptly correct any noted hazard since delay exposes more people to the hazard. Don't forget to correct the source of the hazard. Whenever possible, use non- skid flooring. Floor areas subject to accumulations of slippery substances should be frequently cleaned or have some type of non-skid flooring installed.

Everyone on the jobsite has a responsibility to clean up spills as they occur. Spills create slipping hazards, so when you see a spill, clean it up.....don't wait for someone else to clean it up.

There are always chronic trouble spots on jobsites. Specific locations often become slipping hazards due to routine accumulations of oil, grease or other materials. Such locations should be studied to see if such accumulations can be prevented.

All employees have an obligation to report hazards to their supervisor, if a problem can't be corrected immediately. Certainly, wearing appropriate footwear is one of the bestÊ prevention methods. Metal heel plates on heels of shoes and boots can be hazardous when walking on rigid surfaces, such as wood or metal.

Make sure walkways and other frequently used floor areas are adequately illuminated. Replace burned out lights and correct dark shadow-casting conditions. Everyone needs to see where they're going, so make sure dark areas are well lit. Tripping hazards pose special problems, so it takes special effort to reduce these hazards. Floor conditions or objects on floors that present an obstacle to foot movement are considered tripping hazards. Tripping hazards include cables, ropes, tools, boxes, lumber, legs of equipment, and faulty flooring. Many such obstacles result from poor housekeeping. Here are some tips to help prevent tripping hazards.

1. Be sure there is adequate storage facilities. When items are scattered around, or stored improperly, this indicates a lack of storage facilities or persons are not properly storing their equipment, tools and other items. Poor housekeeping is one of the major causes of tripping hazards.

2. Cleaning and disposal equipment can significantly improve housekeeping, so make sure there is adequate cleaning and disposal equipment to maintain good housekeeping. Maintain as you go, is a good policy.

3. Overhead instead of underfoot, is an old saying on jobsites. Basically it means to run cables, hoses, ropes and wires overhead instead o? along the floor. Where such items must be run on the floor, it should be straight, flat and shielded or marked for easy identification. Portable warning signs and blinker lights are useful to attract attention to such tripping hazards.

4. Inspect floor surfaces frequently. Regular daily inspections of walkways and working areas is necessary and to correct any deficiencies found during these inspections.

5. Of course, tripping prevention wouldn't be complete without housekeeping. Good housekeeping means establishing a place for everything, such as tools, materials, portable equipment, waste, scrap and seeing to it that everything is kept in its proper place when not in use.

The most important aspect of reducing tripping hazards is for everyone to watch where they're going. Sure, you get busy, have a lot of things to do, but it doesn't take a lot of effort to watch where you're walking. Watch for un-level surfaces, holes, lumber, cables, cords and other hazards and take the action necessary to prevent a trip and fall. Now let's take a few minutes to talk about fall to below accidents. A fall to below accident is one in which a person falls to a level below that on which he was walking, standing or working. These types of falls can be quite serious.

The two most common situations involved are working above ground or floor level and working at or around ground or floor openings. Working above ground could be a person overextending his reach on a ladder, causing the ladder to kick out sideways, causing a fall to the ground.

Working at or around ground or floor openings could be a person falling down an elevator shaft or falling through a floor opening. Let's take a look at some potential problems and what you can do about them. When you're working on ladders, platforms, scaffolding or on permanent structures, be sure to use proper procedures and caution.

1. Make sure the equipment used was erected safely. Ladders in particular should be at the proper angle, with firm footing.

2. Don't use defective equipment. Ladders, structural members of wooden staging and so on. Inspect before you use the equipment.

3. When using scaffolds, make sure there are guardrails to prevent falls.

4. Work safely and with caution, as there may be tripping or slipping hazards on structures or flooring surfaces.

5. Use safety belts or nets when working above ground, when not protected from falls by the use of guardrails.

6. Guard openings or barricade where necessary to keep persons from falling through the opening. Use warning devices, such as signs or lights. Temporary floor or ground openings should never be left unattended, unless marked with suitable warning devices. Keep in mind, however, that warning signs and lights are no permanent substitute for barricades.

There are literally hundreds of techniques, rules and procedures to prevent slips, trips and falls, but none are more effective than the effort each individual devotes to watching for hazards, then avoiding the hazard. If you're attentive to where you're walking and avoid the hazard...... there's no slip, trip and fall. If you exercise caution around floor openings....there's no slip, trip and fall. If you maintain good housekeeping on the jobsite, keep tools and equipment out of the way....there's no slip, trip or fall. If you use safe, serviceable equipment, such as ladders and scaffolding, and you position the ladders and scaffolding properly....there's no slip, trip and fall.

Safety is an individual responsibility. You can use the best equipment, but if each person doesn't think and act won't do any good. Think about safety on each and every job. It's important to you, the company and to your families.

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