Slip-and-fall accidents are one of the leading causes of injury in the construction workplace. While the most catastrophic of these occur when working from heights, many injuries also happen at the ground level. Many accidents occur when walking across uneven ground that is too soft, too hard, wet, or muddy.
The most common injuries are back injuries, twisted ankles, and knee strains. However, depending on how a person falls, so are fractured wrists and muscle tears. Preventing slips and falls is a concern that should be addressed by every employer and an important issue for workers, visitors, and the public.
The following guidelines set out tools for good practice in developing an overall slip-and-fall prevention program.
Risk Areas and Regular Maintenance
Regular maintenance with safety in mind is required so that working surfaces are maintained free of slip, trip, and fall hazards that may result in injury to workers. The following risk areas should be addressed as part of a regular maintenance program:
- Walkways. Seasonal changes in temperature, along with regular wear and tear, can deteriorate the condition of outdoor walkways, so these areas should be inspected regularly to identify the ruts, slippery conditions, and other uneven ground on the worksite. Also, identify holes and trenches on the site. Cover them and rope them off with caution tape to prevent access to the area. Workers should not take shortcuts through debris piles.
- Floors. Floors should be kept clean and free of water, oil, and grease. Tiled or concrete floors can be etched to provide a nonslip, nonskid surface. Smooth flooring also can be covered with skid-resistant materials to improve traction.
- Stairwells and steps. Stairwells and steps should be well lit, and sturdy railings should be provided along both sides when possible. Steps should not be dangerously steep and should have the same rise and depth with visible edges. Keep stairs and stairwells free of grease, ice, snow, boxes, and other obstacles that could cause slips or trips.
- Lighting. Reduce the risk of slips and falls by using proper indoor and outdoor lighting. Outdoor stairs, walkways, and parking lots should be well lit. Conduct regular lighting inspections of the construction site, and replace burned-out bulbs immediately. Ensure adequate outdoor lighting as the seasons change and it gets dark earlier and stays dark longer.
Seasonal Safety Hazards
Walkways, ladders, and work platforms present seasonal slip-and-fall hazards due to snow, ice, and rain. It’s important to evaluate your equipment and employee needs before each new season begins. For example, devise a team of volunteers or employees to handle snow- and ice-removal emergencies, and stock up on salt and shovels before the winter season.
Be sure to consider:
- Snow and ice. Clear snow and ice from emergency exits, outdoor staircases, walkways, and parking lots as soon as possible. Evaluate downspouts to ensure runoff does not form ice buildup on sidewalks or parking areas.
- Rain. Keep floors dry and alert people to potentially slippery surfaces in the event of rain. Entryways and hallways become slippery when wet, but also consider potentially dangerous outdoor areas, such as ramps. Preplanning and vigilance can help prevent a majority of slips and falls.
“Develop a written protocol that addresses cleaning procedures and proper response to housekeeping emergencies, such as spills. Establish procedures to clean up spills immediately and to display signs warning people of the danger,” says construction injury specialist consultant and attorney John M. O’Brien. “Determine an appropriate cleaning schedule to keep stairways, passageways, scaffold, ladders, and gangways free of material, supplies, and obstructions. Keep hoses, power cords, or welding leads from lying in heavily traveled walkways or areas. Debris should be removed to keep the worksite orderly. Adequately dispose of scrap, waste and surplus materials. Designate areas for waste materials and provide containers.”
|John M. O’Brien has devoted his legal career to representing the rights and interests of residents in the Elk Grove and Sacramento area and throughout the state of California in many types of personal injury claims. He has a proven track record handling car accidents, truck accidents, commercial vehicle accidents, slip-and-falls, nursing home injuries, wrongful death claims and more with millions of dollars in recovered compensation for victims and family members.|