How to Conduct a Risk Assessment for Slips, Trips, and Falls
When was the last time you conducted a risk assessment at your facility for slips, trips and falls? Has it been more than a year? If so, you’re due for another assessment.
According to Jerry Chapman, Corporate Safety Manager at ITU AbsorbTech, once you’ve assessed your facility, it becomes a matter of sustainability. Any time you have a floor layout or traffic flow change, you should reassess. You should also reassess at least annually to look for changes or maintenance issues. Conduct your observations at different times of the day and year to account for shift changes and seasonal changes such as snow being tracked indoors.
What are Slips, Trips and Falls?
A slip results from too little friction between footwear and the walking surface, resulting in loss of balance. Common culprits include water, snow, mud, grease, oil, food, dust, powders, fresh wax, and poor housekeeping.
A trip occurs when the foot or lower leg comes in contact with an object or steps down and loses balance.
A fall can occur at the same level, or to a lower level and occurs when someone is off their center of balance.
Why conduct a facility assessment?
A facility assessment helps identify the location of high risk hazards. According to OSHA, the majority of general industry accidents are slips, trips, and falls. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths and are second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of fatalities. And most could have been prevented.
Slips, trips, and falls are regulated by OSHA and ANSI. 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D includes requirements for housekeeping, aisles, floor and wall openings, open-sided floors, stairways, railings, stairs, scaffolding and ladders. The requirements can be found on the OSHA web site.
In addition, ANSI has adopted standards for floor safety in partnership with the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI). The B101.1 floor safety standard makes property owners accountable for the slip resistance of their walkways.
Slips, trips and falls can be costly to your company. According to the 2016 National Safety Council report, the average costs for a slip/fall incident was $31,788 for a knee injury, $26,357 for an ankle injury, and $24,964 for a foot or toe injury. This doesn’t include the cost of reduced productivity, training a replacement worker, OSHA fines, and increase in insurance premiums. There are also costs to the employee, including lost wages, pain, potential disability or emotional disorder, and even death.
Who should be involved in an assessment?
This is determined by your organizational structure, corporate culture, and style of safety management. For example, the culture at ITU AbsorbTech is team-based with group participation and engagement. All managers and their respective employees are involved in the process.
Other styles may be more authoritative or control-based. The style of safety management will determine how your assessment is conducted.
An Environmental Heath & Safety Manager may conduct the assessment, an insurance representative can advise, and outside vendors and consultants can offer third party advice in their respective area of expertise. For example, as a safety floor mat provider, our company conducts hundreds of facility assessments each year and can identify slip hazards often overlooked.
Areas to Assess
The first step in your assessment is to make a list of all the risk areas. The most common are:
- Level floors
- Raised surface (such as a mezzanine or boom lift)
- Parking Lot
What are the different ways to assess your facility?
There are two basic approaches to observation- casual and planned. A casual observation is an act or condition that you or an employee witness by chance. A planned observation might include forklift operator, production ergonomic, or workstation observation. Watch traffic flow and patterns. Observe at different shifts, and different times during a shift (for example, when employees arrive and exit). Pay attention to stopping and turning points, high volume actions, forklift patterns, etc. Also, pay attention to footwear. For example, if your shoes are worn out or soles are not applicable to the surface or surface conditions, it can be very dangerous.
Past history/trend analysis
Has your facility or other facilities in your company had an incident in the past? Multiple occurrences? Were all the root causes addressed?
Effective communication flows in two directions, from management to employees and from employees to management. Empower your employees to share their observations and ideas on how to improve safety. At ITU AbsorbTech, for example, employees are required to submit Opportunity for Improvement forms to their managers with the goal of reducing risk of injury and working toward our corporate safety improvement objectives. The form collects information on near misses (unsafe acts or conditions), ideas for safety and quality improvement, and examples of process or service breakdowns.
Safety checklists are a great way to check for common safety hazards and to set the bar for sustainability. However, compliance is more than simply using checklists. Hazards unique to a particular machine, application, or process at your facility could be overlooked if you rely strictly on checklists.
OSHA provides a number of safety checklists located here: http://www.isri.org/safety-best-practices/isri-safety/isri-safety-resources/osha-resources/osha-inspection-checklist#.WG6nZFMrJEY
We put together a quick checklist for some of the common slip, trip and fall hazards to watch for.
Slips and Trips, and Falls Prevention Checklist
- Paved entrance cracking or uneven
- Ice, water, or mud tracked in from the outdoors
- Rumpled floor mats or carpet with curled edges
- Uneven transition from one surface to another
- Office / Lunchroom
- Coffee spills
- Puddles by the water fountain
- Cafeteria sinks
- Spills near food vending areas
- Slick floor from polish or wax
- Rumpled floor mats or carpet with curled edges
- Open cabinets, files, or desk drawers
- Missing or uneven floor tiles
- Bathroom sinks or toilets leaking or overflowing
- Soap spills
- Puddles under air dryer or towel station
- Slick floor from mopping
- Production / Warehouse
- Chemicals, fluids that can be tracked, spilled, sprayed, dripped
- Leaking or dripping fluids in and around machinery
- Pallets or tools in gangways
- Protruding nails, splinters, holes, or loose boards
- Dusts, powers, granules, or plastic wrapping
- Obstructions in aisles and passageways
- Piled up items
- Uncovered hoses, cables, wires, or extension cords
OSHA provides checklists for the following areas regarding fall protection. Click on the link to view the checklist.
- Raised Surface: Fall protection on walking or working surfaces that are 6 feet or more above lower levels.
- Guardrails: Guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or warning line systems.
- Controlled-access: Controlled-access zones, safety monitoring systems, covers, protection from falling objects, or fall protection plans are used.
A facility assessment is an ongoing process. Along with the risk assessment comes the process of risk management and root cause analysis. In this stage, you will evaluate the conditions responsible for a hazard. Is it the environment? Poor lighting? Temperature? Air quality? Health condition of employees? Improper personal protective equipment? Poor housekeeping? Improper cleaning methods? Lack of signs or training? Lack of motivation?
A facility assessment provides a framework for risk analysis, but the process doesn’t end there. Here is a list of some of Jerry’s favorite safety resources to learn more:
- Safetycom: For tips on home and family
- KellerOnline.com: Subscription to this has been a great resource
- OSHA.gov/law-regs.html: Note if regulation number is highlighted it has links to directives/letters and interpretations
Jerry Chapman is the Corporate Safety Manager for ITU AbsorbTech. He is a certified safety professional that has helped ITU AbsorbTech achieve an 82% reduction in injury rates in the past 10 years (compared to previous 10 years) with an average incident rate at about half of the industry average. Jerry also played a role in helping ITU AbsorbTech win the Wisconsin Corporate Safety award in 2010, 2012, 2014, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Safety Award in 2012, and the Indiana Governor’s Workplace Safety Awar in 2012.