Nearly one-third of reportable injuries and 40% of fatalities in the construction industry result from slips, trips and falls. These injuries result in 50% more days away from work than other injuries. Slips, trips and falls can be caused by a number of hazards, including slick areas, debris, clutter, and unsafe equipment and surroundings around stairs, ladders and loading docks. At all times supervisors and employees should be mindful of their surroundings, clean up after themselves and implement required safety measures.

OSHA, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, requires employers to protect against hazards. These regulations will help you – management and line employees – prevent slips, trips and falls in the work environment.

    Housekeeping Routines

    Housekeeping is an effective way to minimize accidents. Your employer should allow time for you to clean your work area regularly.

    Make housekeeping a routine by:

    • Picking up after yourself
    • Keeping surfaces and stairways clear of debris
    • Putting away tools and equipment after use

    OSHA requires that passageways be:

    • Clear of obstructions
    • In good repair
    • Large enough to allow safe clearance

    Indoor and Outdoor Surface Maintenance

    Keep outdoor surfaces clean and dry. Treat them with sand, salt or anti-skid adhesive if necessary. Require workers to wear boots or shoes with good traction.

    Indoors, use nonslip floor mats and allow people to clean their shoes often.

    Floor mats should:

    • Have beveled edges
    • Be flat
    • Be made of material that won’t slide
    • Be placed where moisture can collect

    Lifting Equipment Training and Maintenance

    Construction equipment can create slip, trip and fall hazards. All lifting equipment requires training to operate. Personal fall arrest systems also require training.

    All employees should know to:

    • Never operate equipment without training.
    • Only use equipment that is in good condition and to inspect it before each use.
    • If you notice problems, remove the equipment from service and notify a supervisor.

    Surface Loading Guidelines

    The load rating is the maximum weight that a surface can safely hold. To ensure all employees follow load ratings:

    • The approved load limit should be posted.
    • This limit should include the total weight of all people and objects on that surface.
    • Be aware that it is unsafe and against the law to exceed the load rating.
    • If you bring an unusual amount of weight onto a surface or if work is being performed on a surface that hasn’t been rated, check that the surface can handle the load.

    Holes and Openings Protection

    OSHA defines a hole as a gap or space in any horizontal working surface that is more than 2-inches wide; and an opening is defined as a gap or space in a vertical surface that is at least 30-inches high and at least 18-inches wide through which a person could fall.

    Holes and openings that could lead to a fall must have:

    • Covers or railings to prevent tripping or falling
    • A toeboard if tools can fall into it or people can pass under it

    If holes or openings must be left temporarily unguarded, they must be attended by an employee tasked to watch and warn others until the hole or opening is covered again.

      Stair and Ladder Protection

      To help prevent falls on stairs:

      • Always use the handrail.
      • Turn on lights in the stairwell before entering.
      • Don’t carry loads that block your view.
      • Carry smaller, lighter loads and make more trips, or obtain help with the load.
      • Check individual stairs regularly for damage.
      • Repair steps when necessary.
      • All steps should have the same rise and depth, with visible edges.
      • Keep stairways clear of debris and obstacles.
      • Immediately clean any moisture, grease or oil on stairs.

      In general, to help prevent falls from ladders:

      • Inspect the ladder prior to use to make sure it has no defects.
      • If damaged, remove ladder from service, tag it “Dangerous, Do Not Use” and notify your supervisor.
      • Never use metal ladders around electrical equipment.
      • Never exceed the ladder’s load rating.
      • Never use ladders horizontally as work platforms.

      Scaffolding Requirements

      Safety requirements for scaffolding:

      • Scaffolding must support 4-times the maximum intended load.
      • Workers must be protected from overhead hazards.
      • Scaffolding higher than 10 feet must have guardrails, midrails and toeboards.
      • Use wire mesh between the toeboard and guardrail if people pass below.
      • Provide a safe way for workers to get on and off scaffolding.
      • Don’t use damaged or weakened scaffolding.
      • Don’t move or alter scaffolding while someone is working on it.
      • Never work on scaffolding during storms, high winds or snow, or when the scaffolding is wet or icy.

      Open-Sided Floor Requirements

      Open-sided floors 6 feet above the surface must have a railing on open sides, except for entrances to ramps, stairways, etc.

      Floors used for non-construction activities must have a railing if it is 4 feet or more above the surface.

      There must be a toeboard below the railing if:

      • People pass under it
      • There is moving machinery below
      • There is a danger of falling objects

      If an open-sided floor is near hazardous equipment but lower than the 4- or 6-feet thresholds, it still must have a railing and toeboard. If railing systems are not possible, an approved fall protection method must be in place.

        Dock Board Protection

        Dock boards are movable ramps. They bridge the gap between a loading dock and a truck. To prevent accidents, OSHA requires that:

        • Dock boards are secured.
        • Vehicles are secured with wheel chocks or brakes that meet Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements.
        • Entryways into trailers from loading docks are well lit.
        • Workers are aware of sharp edges and uneven surfaces.
        • Docks are kept free of moisture and debris.

        Slips, trips and falls can cause serious injury. Following OSHA’s requirements will help keep employees and visitors safe.