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April 20, 2007
Don't Fall for Trip Hazards

You don't have to fall from a great height to get injured. Many workplace fall injuries occur on level ground when employees trip over unexpected objects in their path. Worrying about trips and falls may not seem like a big deal compared to many of your other pressing safety concerns, but just remember that even a little trip can lead to injuries like muscle strains or sprains, torn ligaments, broken bones, back or spine damage, and even head injuries if an employee trips and falls head first down the stairs or crashes head first into a wall as a result of a trip.

Take a look around. You'll probably find more than a few trip hazards lurking in your workplace. Common trip hazards include:

  • Poor housekeeping
  • Cords in walkways
  • Improperly stored materials
  • Cluttered or poorly designed work areas
  • Poor visibility
  • Carelessness
  • Open drawers
  • Uneven, defective flooring

Fortunately, it's not too hard to eliminate these and other trip hazards. Try some of these simple but effective strategies:

  • Emphasize and enforce good housekeeping rules.
  • Make sure lighting inside and outside your facility is adequate, and have maintenance check routinely for burned out bulbs and other lighting problems.
  • Design work areas to allow plenty of room for employees to move around safely.
  • Keep flooring and stair treads in good condition.
  • Conduct regular inspections to check for trip hazards.

Train employees to recognize and eliminate trip hazards.

Why It Matters...
  • Trip and fall accidents and injuries are among the most common workplace safety problems.
  • Some injuries are serious enough to result in lost workdays and high medical costs.
  • You can effectively eliminate most workplace trip hazards with an emphasis on good housekeeping, some sensible precautions, and plenty of awareness training.

Management can't prevent trip injuries alone. You have to enlist the help of employees. The best way to do that is through training sessions and safety meetings where you can teach them about trip hazards and precautions. Emphasize training points, such as:

  • Keeping work areas neat and tidy and putting tools and materials away after use
  • Picking up items from the floor even if you didn't put them there
  • Stepping around obstructions, not on or over them
  • Walking slowly, making sure you can see where you're going, especially when carrying a load
  • Watching for changes in floor level--such as a few steps or a ramp up or down
  • Watching your step before entering and leaving elevators
  • Immediately reporting lighting problems to maintenance
  • Using a flashlight in dark areas, such as outside the facility at night
  • Not leaving boxes, bags, tools, or other materials on the floor
  • Not laying cords or power cables across walkways
  • Not leaving any items on stairs
  • Not leaving drawers open for somebody to trip over

Teach them how to fall "safely." If you can't possibly eliminate every single trip and fall hazard, you can still help employees reduce the chance of injury by teaching them the "safe" way to fall if they do trip. The trick is to minimize the impact of falling by:

  • Bending elbows and knees so legs and arms absorb the fall
  • Rolling with the fall
  • Protecting vital areas (e.g., tucking head into collarbone)
  • Using the inside of the forearms and palms of hands to break the fall rather than wrists
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