Across industries and across the years, slips, trips, and falls continue to be among the leading causes of workplace injury. Opportunities for workplace falls are abundant, and many incidents result in serious injuries.
Dr. William Marletta is a safety consultant in West Islip, New York, who specializes in slip, trip, and fall hazards. (The irony in the name of his town is hard to ignore!) He works with clients, provides expert testimony in litigation, and has helped develop a number of relevant safety standards.
Our sister publication, the OSHA Compliance Advisor, asked Marletta to identify frequently ignored slip-related hazards.
“One of my pet peeves is single-step risers or one-level changes,” he explained. Although these are not permitted by commercial building codes, they are around and are responsible for a large number of falls. Where these risks are present, employers should install a handrail, step light, or introduce a contrasting paint color.
“Another one many people don’t figure out has to do with curve ramps,” he said./ These are ADA-compliant ramps constructed in businesses and public spaces. The problem, according to Marletta, is that the ramps are often overly sloped on both sides, which causes people who walk on them to twist their ankles and fall.
“Nobody building them tapers them to code; they tend to do it by eye, and that results in a too-steep ramp,” he said. Unfortunately, the only “fix” is to restructure the ramps.
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Aware that first impressions are important, business people work hard to make the guest lobbies of their buildings pleasant and welcoming. But, unfortunately, they rarely consider fall potential there, said Marletta.
Most important is to have a proper mat just inside the outside doors. “When it’s raining out, people shake their umbrellas and water comes off onto the smooth terrazzo or other type of floor, creating a dangerous hazard.”
Marletta recommended signage, additional mats during inclement weather, and stationing an individual with a mop to keep entryways dry on wet days.
The office is also often overlooked. Safety professionals tend to concentrate on the industrial spaces in their facilities and forget about the administrative areas. But office workers commonly trip over wires, cords, and other items. These need to be managed just like other types of fall hazards.
Marletta said a good slip, trip, and fall program should not be limited to worksites but should extend to workers’ homes. “If you can culture the safety mentality at home as you’re trying to culture it at the workplace, it’s beneficial to everybody.”
Huge numbers of costly accidents occur at home where individuals feel comfortable, think they know the risks, and consider themselves immune from accidents. Unfortunately, spending a lot of time in a place doesn’t reduce the risk.
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