Back to School Safety

August 22nd, 2017

Slips, Trips, and Falls: What You Need to Know
A recent review of our educational institution customers’ injury claims reveals that slips, trips, and falls constitute the majority of accidents.
These accidents have resulted in head injuries, back injuries, broken bones, cuts, lacerations, and sprained muscles. With the approaching winter weather season, this is a good time to review your procedures for maintaining your facilities and reminding staff and students of conditions that can lead to these types of accidents.

Here is a quick overview of some of the common factors contributing to slips, trips and falls:

Wet or Slippery Surfaces
Even when dry, highly polished floors such as marble, terrazzo, or ceramic tile can be slippery. When moisture (spills, rain, snow and mud) is present, it definitely increases the potential for a slip. Food preparation areas, bathrooms and kitchens are also a high risk for slippery surfaces.

Environmental Conditions
No matter how well the snow and ice are removed from campus sidewalks, parking lots and the surrounding streets, people will invariably encounter some slippery surfaces when walking outdoors in the winter. Many cold weather injuries are the result of falls on ice-covered streets and sidewalks. Walking on snow or ice is especially treacherous. Getting around on campus in icy conditions calls for planning, caution, and a little common sense.

Insufficient or Inadequate Lighting
Insufficient light can make it difficult to see obstacles and notice changes in the walking surface. Unsurprisingly, it is associated with an increase in accidents. Move slowly where light is dim and pay close attention to your path of travel. Moving too fast increases the likelihood you will misjudge a step or encounter a hazard before you have a chance to notice it. Moving from light to dark areas, or vice versa, can cause temporary vision problems that might be just enough to cause a person to slip on a spill or trip over a misplaced object.

Changes in Elevation
Changes in elevation are a major source of trip accidents. Even a change in walking surface of ¼” – ½” or greater will be sufficient to cause a trip. Curbs, cracks in the sidewalk, ramps and single steps are all examples of these hazards.

Climbing or Descending Stairways.
Nearly half of all falls occur on stairs. Keeping stairs in good repair is essential to preventing accidents. Make sure that stairways have secure handrails and guardrails, even surfaces, level tread heights and are free of deteriorating coverings such as frayed carpet.

Housekeeping Issues in Working and Walking Areas
Proper housekeeping in work and walking areas can contribute to safety and the prevention of falls. Not only is it important to maintain a safe working environment and walking surface, these areas must also be kept free of obstacles that can cause slips and trips. Obstacles could include clutter, obstructions across hallways and material stacked or dumped in passageways, etc.

Solutions for Your School or Institution
Solving the slip, trip, and fall problem, as well as all safety issues, at education institutions requires commitment, training, and a comprehensive plan that is executed regularly. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are 20 points every comprehensive safety plan should include:

  • Use non-slip flooring materials, waxes, and finishes
  • Provide adequate lighting
  • Clean up spills and debris immediately
  • Mark or identify spills and wet areas
  • Keep walkways clear of clutter and other obstacles
  • Close cabinets and storage drawers when finished
  • Cover or tape down cords and cables
  • Select and wear proper footwear for weather and workplace
  • Match your footwear to all the hazards of the job
  • Slow down and pay attention to where you are going, don’t run!
  • Place each foot firmly and flat on the floor
  • Keep walkways clear of clutter and other obstacles
  • Keep flooring in good condition
  • Adjust your stride to be suitable for the walking surface and the task
  • Walk with your feet pointed slightly outward, especially on wet or slick surfaces
  • Make wide turns at corners
  • Don’t let objects you are carrying or pushing block your view
  • Conduct regular inspections for common hazards such as:
    o Slippery materials (ice, water, snow, oil, powders, sand)
    o Slippery surfaces (polished tile or stone, smooth painted concrete or metal)
    o Uneven walking surfaces
    o Wrinkled carpeting or loose rugs or mats
    o Clutter on the floors or stairs
    o Exposed or loose cables, wires or cords
  • Identify high-risk areas such as stairs, entrances, and high traffic areas. Post signage pointing them out.
  • Train managers, supervisors, and workers on safety procedures.

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