Slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are notorious workplace hazards that cause a lot of injuries and add to costs, productivity losses, and worker absences. Take action against STFs with these 5 strategies.
Risk specialist Brian Roberts is the director of workers’ compensation and ergonomics for the insurance giant CNA. He’s developed an STF reduction strategy that he teaches to risk and safety professionals at client businesses.
Roberts recommends an innovative way of looking at slips, trips, and falls in keeping with the 5S Japanese workplace organization system. The five strategies are:
1. Sort. It starts with organizing and straightening the workplace and making sure that aisles and walkways are free of trip and fall hazards.
2. Set in order. This involves understanding the efficiency of motion and workflow and ordering steps and movement. An example is conducting research into employee walking patterns and charting results.
3. Shine. This refers to eliminating all forms of contamination, such as dirt, fluids, or liquids, which could cause bone-breaking slips.
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4. Standardize. Standardizing is about organizing, labeling, and bringing order. It includes the concept of “visual management,” which involves the use of signs and other ways to order the work environment and communicate visually about what is happening.
5. Sustain. The last strategy is maintaining progress achieved through the other strategies. The goal is to make the improvements systemic and long-lasting.
Roberts also teaches clients to assess their floor surfaces, honing their powers of observation to detect wear, pitting, unlevel surfaces, and so on.
In addition, he cites these other conditions to watch out for:
- Keep lights clean. When lights are covered with dust and dirt, the light they provide is obscured, which increases the risk of STFs.
- Watch for transition points. Study your workplace to become aware of the transition points from concrete to tile, tile to carpet, carpet to marble, etc. If these are a source of STFs, they should be eliminated or altered.
- Be vigilant about floor maintenance. Issues include making sure that the floor cleaning products you choose are the right ones and are being used properly, especially by maintenance people who may have limited English skills.
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Roberts believes that slips, trips, and falls should be approached in a systematic way like other business problems, commensurate with the tremendous risk they present.
He urges safety professionals to start by taking a hard look at the hazards and habits that may be contributing to the problem. “You need to have this kind of dialogue with operations and management,” he advises. “Most managers don’t think about what we’ve been talking about until they have a slip, trip, or fall that costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars.”