A stumble down a stairway. A trip over an uneven surface. A slip on the ice. It’s probably happened to most of us: a lapse of attention distracting us from our activity, moving too quickly in a potentially hazardous situation. Before we know it, our feet have come out from under us, causing a moment of pain, bruising or even serious injury.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, slips, trips and falls make up most general industry workplace accidents accounting for:

  • 15% of all accidental deaths per year — the second-leading cause of death behind motor vehicle crashes.
  • 25% of all reported injury claims per fiscal year.
  • 65% of all workdays lost — more than 95 million lost workdays per year.

In general, slips, trips and falls occur due to a loss of traction between the shoe and the walking surface or to unintended contact with an object. There are a variety of situations that may cause an incident:

Guidelines for Preventing Slips, Tips and Falls in Your Workplace

These six guidelines can help you create a safer working environment for you and your employees.

  1. Establish Good Housekeeping Practices
  2. Safety and housekeeping go hand in hand. Good housekeeping is the first and the most important (fundamental) level of preventing falls due to slips and trips. If your facility’s housekeeping habits are poor, the result may lead to higher incidence of employee injuries, increasing insurance costs and regulatory citations. If an organization’s facilities are noticeably clean and well organized, it is a good indication that its overall safety program is effective as well.

    Proper housekeeping is a routine. It is an ongoing procedure that is simply done as part of an employee’s daily performance. To create an effective housekeeping program, there are three simple steps to get you started:

    • Plan — Know what needs to be done, who is going to do it and what the work area should look like when you are done.
    • Assign responsibilities — It may be necessary to assign a specific person or group of employees to clean up, although personal responsibility for cleaning up after oneself is preferred.
    • Implement a program — Establish housekeeping procedures as a part of the daily routine.
  3. Reduce Wet or Slippery Surfaces
  4. Walking surfaces account for a significant portion of injuries reported. The most frequently reported types of surfaces where these injuries occur include:

    • Parking lots.
    • Sidewalks (or lack thereof).
    • Food preparation areas.
    • Floors in general.

    Traction on outdoor surfaces can change considerably when weather conditions change. Those conditions can then affect indoor surfaces as well when moisture is tracked in. Traction control procedures should be constantly monitored for their effectiveness:

    • Keep parking lots and sidewalks clean and in good condition.
    • When snow and ice are present, remove or treat these elements. In some extreme cases, it may be necessary to suspend use of the area.
    • Use adhesive striping material or anti-skid paint whenever possible.

    Indoor control measures can help reduce the incidence of slips and falls:

    • Use moisture-absorbent mats (“walk-off mats”) with beveled edges in entrance areas. Make sure they have backing material that will not slide on the floor.
    • Display wet floor signs as needed.
    • Use anti-skid adhesive tape in troublesome areas.
    • Clean up spills immediately. Create a procedure for taking the appropriate action whenever there is a food, drink or other spill.
    • Use proper area rugs or mats for food preparation areas.

    Maintaining proper flooring is important to workplace safety. Even high-tech flooring requires good housekeeping as much as any other flooring. In addition, resilient, non-slippery flooring prevents or reduces foot fatigue and contributes to slip prevention measures:

    • Recoat or replace floors if needed.
    • Install mats, pressure-sensitive abrasive strips or abrasive-filled paint-on coating.
    • Install metal or synthetic decking outdoors.
  5. Avoid Creating Obstacles in Aisles and Walkways
  6. Injuries can also result from trips caused by obstacles, clutter, materials and equipment in aisles, corridors, entranceways and stairwells. Proper housekeeping in work and traffic areas is still the most effective control measure in avoiding the proliferation of these types of hazards. This means having policies or procedures in place and allowing time for cleaning the area, especially where scrap material or waste is a byproduct of the work operation:

    • Keep all work areas, passageways, storerooms and service areas clean and orderly.
    • Avoid stringing cords, cables or air hoses across hallways or in any designated aisle.
    • Cover cables that cross walkways.
    • In office areas, avoid leaving boxes, files or briefcases in the aisles.
    • Encourage safe work practices, such as closing file cabinet drawers after use and picking up loose items from the floor.
    • Conduct periodic inspections for slip and trip hazards.
  7. Create and Maintain Proper Lighting
  8. Poor lighting in the workplace is associated with an increase in accidents. To improve lighting conditions:

    • Use proper illumination in walkways, staircases, ramps, hallways, basements, construction areas and dock areas.
    • Keep work areas well-lit and clean.
    • Upon entering a darkened room, always turn on the light first.
    • Keep poorly lit walkways clear of clutter and obstructions.
    • Keep areas around light switches clear and accessible.
    • Repair fixtures, switches and cords immediately if they malfunction.
  9. Wear Proper Shoes
  10. The shoes we wear can play a big part in preventing falls and are a critical component of personal protective equipment, or PPE. Employees should be expected to wear footwear appropriate for the duties of their work task and the work environment. Since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, consultation with manufacturers is highly recommended. Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which, in turn, improves safety for the employee. To avoid slips, trips and falls, the slickness of the soles and the type of heels worn should be considered, and shoelaces tied correctly. Whenever a fall-related injury is investigated, the footwear is evaluated as a potential contributing factor.

  11. Control Individual Behavior
  12. It’s important to remember that safety is everyone’s business. It’s ultimately up to every individual to plan, stay alert and pay attention. While it is an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment, employees can improve their own safety too. It’s human nature to let our guard down temporarily and be distracted by random thoughts or multiple activities. When we’re in a hurry, we likely walk or run too fast. Taking shortcuts, not watching where we’re going, using a cellphone, carrying materials which obstruct our vision, wearing sunglasses in low-light areas, not using designated walkways and speeding are common factors in many on-the-job injuries.
    You can reduce the risk of slipping by:

    • Taking your time and paying attention to where you are going.
    • Adjusting your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the tasks you are doing.
    • Walking with your feet pointed slightly outward.
    • Making wide turns at corners.

    You can reduce the risk of tripping by:

    • Always using installed lighting sources that provide enough light for your tasks.
    • Using a flashlight if you enter a dark room where there is no light.
    • Ensuring that things you are carrying or pushing do not prevent you from seeing any obstructions, spills, etc.