Friday, March 25, 2011

Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls at Work

Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common causes of work-related injuries. Slips, trips, and falls can cause bruises, broken bones, sprains and strains, back or neck injuries, and even head injuries. Falls from heights can also be deadly.

According to OSHA, slips, trips, and fall account for the majority of all general industry. The injuries sustained in slips, trips, and falls can be serious. In fact, 15 percent of all accidental deaths are caused by slips, trips, falls. These types of injuries are also costly. In 2006, injuries caused by slips, trips, and falls caused 234,450 lost workdays, and cost U.S. businesses $11.6 billion in medical costs and the cost of lost workdays.

Most slip, trip, and fall accidents are also preventable. According to OSHA, “[t]here are many situations that may cause slips, trips, and falls, such as ice, wet spots, grease, polished floors, loose flooring or carpeting, uneven walking surfaces, clutter, electrical cords, open desk drawers and filing cabinets, and damaged ladder steps. The controls needed to prevent these hazards are usually obvious, but too often ignored, such as keeping walkways and stairs clear of scrap and debris; coiling up extension cords, lines, and hoses when not in use; keeping electrical and other wires out of the way; wearing lug soles in icy weather; clearing parking lots, stairs, and walkways in snowy weather; and using salt/sand as needed.”

At minimum, OSHA requires that all areas where employees work or travel must be kept clear of hazards. Every floor, work area, and passageway must be kept free from protruding nails, splinters, holes, or loose boards. These surfaces must be clean and free of hazards that could interfere with normal activities.
University of Florida researchers discovered a number of activities that are more likely to lead to slips, trips, and falls, including:
  • Walking too fast or running
  • Getting distracted
  • Not watching where one is going
  • Carrying materials that obstruct view
  • Wearing sunglasses in low-light areas
  • Failure to use handrails
To avoid slips, trips, and falls at work:
  • Pay attention to where you’re going and what’s in the way.
  • Walk, don’t run.
  • Wear sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
  • Keep aisles, stairs, and walkways clear of tools, materials, cords, etc.
  • Fix or report broken flooring, stair rails or steps, ladders and burned-out lights.
  • Clean up leaks and spills promptly.
  • Block off and mark floor areas being cleaned or repaired.
  • Dispose of trash promptly and properly.
  • Close drawers.
  • Stay away from dock and platform edges.
  • Walk slowly, sliding your feet, on slippery surfaces.
  • Avoid wearing baggy pants you could trip over.
  • Use a ladder rather than chairs or boxes to reach high places.
  • Don’t carry loads you can’t see over, especially on stairs.
  • Don’t jump on or off platforms and loading docks.
We see injuries as a result of slips, trips, and falls on a regular basis in our Minnesota workers’ compensation practice. Remember, in order to be covered by workers’ compensation, your injury must arise out of, and occur in the course and scope of your employment. There must be some relationship between your work and the slip, trip, or fall, and any subsequent injuries. On occasion, the workers’ compensation insurance company will try to deny an employee’s claim where the reason or the slip, trip, or fall isn’t clear. They will sometimes try to suggest that you tripped over your own feet, tripped on your own shoelace, or were just clumsy. Even if that is the case, if you sustained injury because of something in the work environment, it is still a compensable injury. For example, even if you tripped over your own shoelace, if you sustained a head injury because you struck your head on a work stool on the way down, it’s a compensable injury.

If you’ve sustained an injury at work because of a slip, trip, or fall, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation injuries, including medical expenses, wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, and rehabilitation benefits. Make sure you get the benefits you are entitled to! Contact Meuser & Associate at 877-746-5680, or click here to send us an email for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Minnesota workers’ compensation lawyers.


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