Slips, trips and falls (STF) are a primary concern of many facilities, and for good reason. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 25% of reported claims per year are the result of a slip, trip or fall, making it one of the most frequently reported injuries. Further, over 17% of all disabling injuries are the result of a fall, and STFs cause 15% of all accidental deaths, second only to automobile accidents.
Slip, trip and fall accidents can be defined as follows:
- Slip: A loss of balance caused by too little traction between footwear and walking/working surface.
- Trip: A loss of balance caused by the foot or lower leg hitting an obstacle, or an unexpected step down while the upper body continues moving.
- Fall: A drop or descent as the result of a loss of balance frequently caused by a slip or trip. Same-level falls are those that occur on the same walking or working level. Elevated falls are falls to a level below the walking or working level.
While human factors can be at the root of some of these accidents, such as poor eyesight, overexertion, poor physical shape, fatigue, age, stress, alcohol, drugs or medications, poor judgment or improper footwear, there are also many hazards within the facility that can contribute to STF accidents. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) top 10 hazards are:
- Contaminants on the Floor
- Indoor Walking Surface Irregularities
- Outdoor Walking Surface Irregularities
- Weather Conditions: Ice and Snow
- Inadequate Lighting
- Stairs and Handrails
- Stepstools and Ladders
- Tripping Hazards: Clutter, Loose Cords, etc.
- Improper Use of Floor Mats and Runners
- Poor Drainage: Pipes and Drains
The effect of STF accidents can be devastating. In addition to the tremendous burden an injury can potentially have on the victim—such as long-term pain, disability and the cost of treatment—the facility may experience the significant fiscal consequences of worker absenteeism, drops in overall productivity, higher insurance premiums and retraining expenses. The good news is that many of these types of accidents and injuries can be prevented.
Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention
There are a number of things facilities can do to help prevent slip, trip and fall accidents. Two measures that can be taken to minimize risk are improving employee awareness through training and designing work areas to be safer.
Enhancing employees’ understanding of what constitutes “good housekeeping” and proper facility maintenance can be one of the simpler ways of reducing STFs. Keeping work areas tidy and free of clutter, and taking care that walkway and passageways are free of obstacles, can minimize the risk of an accident. Basic employees training for safety-consciousness can include common sense measures such as requiring workers to wear correct footwear with good traction, reviewing proper methods and safest routes when walking in and around stationary machinery or moving equipment, and learning how to take a fall—that is, techniques to minimize injury when a fall is inevitable.
Building managers, safety professionals, and architects can also be called upon to implement STF protocols in their workplace designs. Many organizations, including OSHA, NIOSH, the National Safety Council (NSC), and others have published information, standards and guidelines on incorporating safety in the design of workplaces and processes. These publications contain detailed discussions and recommendations covering a broad range of safety topics focused on lowering incidences of STF accidents in the workplace.
A slip-resistant floor surfacing can be another very effective way to help reduce slip and fall hazards in facilities, and even more so in wet, oily or dirty environments. While not regulated, OSHA does mention slip-resistant flooring in a non-mandatory appendix publication.
How Slip-Resistant Flooring Works
Slip-resistant floor surfacing is a polymer resinous floor coating incorporating various levels of grit to create a slip-inhibiting surface. Texture levels can be customized throughout the facility, with increased levels in entryway areas or areas more susceptible to moisture or fine powder spills. Due to the unique nature of resinous floor systems, the floor can maintain the same aesthetic throughout. Decorative anti-microbial resinous flooring systems are also available in slip-resistant finishes for healthcare and food facility applications.
So why would a technology with the potential to be so beneficial for reducing slips and trips in the workplace be considered “non-mandatory” and not be regulated? The answer lies with the inability to measure slip-resistance accurately using currently approved technology. Standard methods for scientifically measuring slip-resistance can produce widely different results and have now been phased out by U.S. governing bodies; newer tests that may be more accurate have not yet been approved. Without reliable measurement, OSHA and other organizations do not have a basis on which to build useful standards.
In the absence of industry standards for slip-resistant floor surfacing, solutions-oriented flooring system companies have developed a low-risk selection process to help building managers and designers select the correct level of slip resistance needed in their facilities. A test area can be installed with various levels of slip resistance. The different floor finishes can then be utilized and tested by employees, visitors and maintenance personnel over a period of four to eight weeks, after which their opinions can inform project managers’ purchasing decisions as to the optimal skid-inhibiting floor surface for each area within the facility.
With its broad selection of decorative and utilitarian looks, high performance and versatile application, slip-resistant resinous flooring systems have the capacity to provide whole facility flooring solutions, furnishing comprehensive protection, outstanding aesthetics and low-cost maintenance throughout. Slip-resistant resinous floor surfacing is a smart, high value option when designing a safer workplace.