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
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
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.