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  • Slips, Trips and Falls

    By Michael Bergan

    At RWRD, we perform work on many different surfaces. Some of these surfaces include rocky soil, pavement, concrete and elevated surfaces such as catwalks and aerial work platforms. In addition, merely walking to and from our personal and/or work vehicles can involve a variety of surfaces. 

    All of the above, along with many other types of surfaces, present significant opportunities for slip, trip and fall injuries to occur. In fact, this year alone, the RWRD safety office had seven incident reports come through that involved either a slip, trip or fall. Hence, this is the focus of this month’s safety article.

    Many people don’t realize that surface irregularities of even slightly less than a fourth of an inch may be enough to cause a trip. In addition, a loss of balance leading to a fall can arise when one unexpectedly comes into contact with something or someone. Falls initiated by slips are the most prevalent type, however.

    What this means is that we all need to pay attention to where we are walking and what we’re doing in order to avoid slip, trip and fall incidents.

    Some simple rules to follow:
    • Concentrate on what you are doing, where you are going, and what lies ahead. 
    • Repair, remove, report or avoid hazards in your path. 
    • Watch out for surfaces that are uneven, wet, or have holes. 
    • Clean up or report spills. 
    • Avoid carrying loads you can’t see over. 
    • Route (or properly cover/delineate) extension cords, hoses, etc., away from foot traffic. 
    • Ensure that there is adequate lighting. 
    • Use the three-point rule of one hand and two feet, or one foot and two hands, when using stairs, climbing on and off equipment, or using ladders. 
    • Report defective equipment or hazardous conditions immediately. 

    There are less talked-about factors that may contribute to slips, trips and falls as well.

    There are several studies which examined the relationship between aging and slip, trip and fall incidents. With a significant portion of RWRD workers eligible for retirement, this is worth addressing. 

    While many of the findings have been contradictory, one study indicated that increased susceptibility to slips, trips and falls with aging only becomes a factor in older workers that have had a certain level of age-related changes regarding fitness, strength and balance. Body mass, which frequently increases as people age, also appears to be a contributing factor.

    Pima County offers several health and fitness options contained in the Benefits and Wellness section of the intranet that encourage healthy, active lifestyles.

    Finally, studies have shown that there is direct correlation between incident rates, including slips, trips and falls, and the safety climate of an organization. To sum it up: the better the safety climate, the lower the incident rate.

    Essentially, safety climate can be defined as the perceptions of employees about the importance of safety within their organization. This includes policies, management attitudes, and worker beliefs regarding safety.

    From the top down, RWRD never stops focusing on safety, including that of its workers and the general public. A positive safety climate increases morale, increases worker perception that their workplace is safe, and serves as motivation to keep it that way.

    This has only touched on a few of the many ways we can prevent slips, trips and falls. Centering our attention on the information above can result in a reduction of the likelihood that an incident will occur, and put us one step closer to our goal of zero reportable incidents.