Injuries and Illness

Keys to Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls

OSHA says slip, trip, and fall injuries account for the majority of general industry accidents. They cause back injuries, sprains and strains, contusions, and fractures. And they result in 15 percent of all accidental deaths.

You know that falls can cause a variety of injuries and can spike your workers’ compensation costs. But looking at the numbers, the scope of the problem might surprise you. Consider the following:

  • Each year, some 21,000 Americans die as a result of falls. That’s more than from electrocution, drowning, and firearms incidents combined.

  • Falls carry an astronomical price tag of between $60 billion and $80 billion each year. That includes litigation, insurance and comp claims, medical costs, and other indirect costs.

  • Falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits, with more than 2 million Americans entering the ER each year as a result.

  • Every hour, falls are responsible for one death and 183 emergency room visits.

  • There’s nothing new about the prevalence of workplace falls. As far back as 1937, National Safety Council records reveal that falls caused more lost time than any other class of compensable occupational accidents.

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Rx for Falls

Your employees know that falling is a hazard. But knowledge alone isn’t enough to keep them on their feet. You need a purposeful program that identifies problems, implements focused solutions, and monitors the results.

That’s the approach pursued by BJC HealthCare, a large hospital group whose award-winning injury-prevention program has succeeded in significantly reducing employee injuries.

Several years ago, executives at BJC HealthCare said "Enough," and structured a program to identify and eliminate the hazards.

Laurie Wolf, a management engineer with BJC’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital, explains key features of their slip, trip, and fall prevention program, which includes:

  • Identifying conditions and equipment that could lead to slip, trip, and fall incidents and implementing practices to address them

  • Posting warning signs

  • Making spill cleanup easy for employees

  • Requiring employees to wear slip-resistant shoes in high-risk areas

  • A winter weather initiative to alert employees to seasonal hazards and keep outdoor walkways safe

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Employee Involvement Is Key

BJC HealthCare learned that strong programs must be accompanied by strong employee involvement. The company started to see the benefits of its efforts once it found ways to get employees to become active participants.

"We had a ‘Get a Grip on Your Slips’ campaign in which employees called a hotline to report what they did to prevent themselves or a co-worker from falling. This put them into the drawing for a prize," says Wolf. Another cleverly named initiative was "Save Yourself a Trip." It also motivated employees to come up with antitrip and fall strategies and share them with co-workers.

Employee awareness has also been enhanced by mini-health fairs, paycheck reminders, slip prevention badge holders, and table tent announcements in the cafeteria.

Wolf is a strong believer in keeping awareness top of mind by regularly changing initiatives. "We’ll do a program until participation dwindles, then we’ll stop it for a while and restart it. It’s a matter of continual improvement, not just launching a program and considering it done."

Tomorrow, we’ll continue with more advice about preventing slips, trips, and falls from a safety consultant who specializes in this important workplace safety issue.