Slips, trips and falls cause thousands of accidents
and serious injuries every year. A tragic number of cases end
up in permanent injury or death, and the dollar costs associated
with these cases can be tremendous. The liability connected with
these and other premises issues often falls on the business owner.
These accidents also have an adverse effect on
employees. An analysis of workplace losses indicates that falls
from elevated areas (ladders, stairways, elevated storage areas,
etc.) account for the highest severity of injuries and the most
deaths. Falls occurring on level surfaces, although generally
less severe, constitute the large percentage of recordable injury.
Controls you implement to protect the general public will also
help to prevent employee accidents.
Falls on level surfaces
The major cause of these falls involves the customer
tripping over objects. Customers trip over such items as telephone
or electrical cords, floor-mounted outlets, defective floor surfaces,
including broken or cracked tiles, frayed or loose rugs, and plastic
carpet covers with curled edges.
The type of floor surface often presents a hazard
that is directly responsible for accidents. Even if a floor defect
did not contribute to the accident, claimants often include such
unsatisfactory conditions in their negligence claims.
Unsafe floor conditions
It is essential that unsafe floor conditions such as
the following be corrected promptly.
Floors exposed to moisture – In areas where
moisture may be blown or tracked in during bad weather, rubber
mats provide the best type of protection. Permanently installed
mats recessed into the floor are preferable. Next best is a surface
mat left in place at all times or at least during inclement weather
Floor spills – Clean up should be immediately
after maintenance personnel are made aware of the spill. Isolate
the spill area by placing cones or barriers around it.
Inherently slippery floors – These include
highly polished but unwaxed marble and terrazzo floors. Covering
paths of travel can reduce the hazard with suitable non-slip material
such as carpet or rubber matting. There are also terrazzos made
with non-slip material added to them.
Outdoor walking surfaces – Sidewalks, curbs
and parking lots also present many trip and fall hazards. Inspect
these areas continually for holes, uneven surfaces and broken
pavement. It is recommended that you paint curb facings a bright
color to highlight the “step-up.” A comprehensive
snow removal program is essential in areas of the country where
it is necessary.
Falls from elevated surfaces
The most severe type of falls occur from one level to
another. Falls from chairs, stairs, ladders, elevators or other
raised surfaces can cause severe injuries and, in some cases,
death. According to information gathered by the Consumer Product
Safety Commission and the National Bureau of Standards, there
are approximately five million stair fall cases per year.
Onsite traffic patterns – Mark pedestrian walkways
on the parking lot surface to identify safe walking paths for
customers. Traffic flow in and out of your facilities should avoid
areas where pedestrians commonly travel.
Install speed bumps, “caution” and
“stop” signs where appropriate to help control traffic.
Display stands – Large, heavy items (tires,
wheels, auto parts, etc.) are often displayed on tall, freestanding
racks or shelves. Unless sufficiently stable or secured to a wall,
these stands (and the items on display) can fall over on small
children or adults and cause substantial injuries. Wall-mounted
TV stands offer a similar exposure. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s
installation instructions closely – these stands should
be fastened securely to the wall studs, not drywall.
Overhead doors – Make sure the area is
clear before closing overhead doors. Someone walking through the
area can be struck in the head as the door is closing.
Self inspections – Periodic inspection
tailored to the needs of the facility can help reduce the number
of falls and premises liability incidents. Individuals trained
in hazard recognition should perform the inspection. Identified
hazards should be immediately corrected to reduce exposure to
customers, visitors and employees. Management follow-up is a necessity;
it is important to ensure that discrepancies are corrected in
a timely manner.