Slips and Falls

Once upon a time, not too long ago, a new janitorial helper at an industrial plant started scrubbing some stairs and nearby floor with water and a cleaning agent.  An observant passing worker realized that, soon, dozens of workers would hurry down those steps en route to their coffee break.  Alertness and quick action averted a potential disaster.

At least two wrongs appeared in this situation:  The stair and floor cleaning should have been done after work hours, or in a three-shifts-a-day plant, pedestrian traffic should have been detoured during the cleanup, which is the action that was taken in the aforementioned plant.  Another error was that the workers shouldn't have been in the habit of rushing to their coffee break.  In the instance cited, they were just lucky.

Speaking in broad terms, there are three ways you can suffer a fall on your job-and possibly suffer from the fall.  You can be caused to slip and lose your balance; you can trip over a floor defect or something improperly left or dropped in a walkway; or you can fall from a position in which you are being supported above the floor or ground.

To avoid slips and resulting falls, be on the lookout for foreign substances on the floor.  Watch for deposits of water, food, grease, oil, sawdust, soap, or debris.  Even small quantities of these substances, sometimes almost too small to see, can be dangerous.

When you come into the plant from outdoors in rainy or snowy weather, wipe your shoes thoroughly on a doormat-not just to keep the floor clean but to prevent wetness of your shoes from making you slip and, perhaps, fall.  Another point about walking safely:  Don't turn too sharply when changing your direction.

Now, let's give our attention to tripping hazards.  Some that are all too common are trash or unused material left in aisles or other areas intended for pedestrian traffic, extension cords across paths of travel, tools not put away, and holes or unevenness in the floor.

It will help keep passageways clean if you make sure trash or waste goes in the trash barrel.  You should be close enough to the waste receptacle, or it should be near enough to you, that you can't miss it.  Arranging this may require an appeal to your safety committee.

Walk where you're supposed to walk.  Don't take shortcuts; especially don't take shortcuts through machinery areas.

Horseplay-just plain goofing off-can be fraught with danger.  It can make someone inattentive to his path of travel, causing him to trip, stumble, or fall.

Hold onto the handrails when walking on stairs or traveling on steeper-than-ordinary ramps.  If material or equipment is stored on stairways or ramps, move it or report it to me.

To avoid those long falls that can cripple for a lifetime or even prove fatal, you should make a special study of ladder safety and proper use of scaffolding.  We have pamphlets and other information devoted especially to proper use of such equipment.

When you need to climb, use a ladder-the proper length ladder.  Don't climb on machinery, stock, crates, or boxes.  Be sure that the ladder is in good condition.

When using a straight ladder, keep the distance from the ladder's base to the wall at one-fourth the distance from the base to its point of support.  Don't reach too far from a ladder. Use a safety belt if both hands are to be occupied.  Never stand above the third step from the top.

When using scaffolds, check carefully for defects and proper installation.  When metal scaffolding is assembled, the maker's instructions should be accurately followed.  The standing and work surfaces should be kept level and clean.  Toe boards help prevent tools from falling and lessen the danger of slipping.  If possible, work with someone well versed in scaffolding safety.

John Q. Worker sat high on a rail;

When down through the air he started to sail.

All the state's nurses and medical men

Couldn't put Mr. Worker back together again.

The rhyme is silly, but the message is significant.  As I said at the start, there are many ways you can be hurt in a slip or fall.  You need to be constantly alert in just that many ways.