Slips, trips, and falls, or “falls to the same level,” are much more frequent than falls from an elevation and cause one in six of all lost-time work injuries. Falls from the same level are caused either by a slip or a trip:
- Slips occur when there is too little traction or friction between the footwear and the walking or work surface. Occasional spills, oily surfaces, icy weather, and unanchored mats are just a few causes of slips in the workplace.
- Trips happen when a worker’s foot collides with an object causing the individual to lose balance. Cluttered work cells, uncovered cables, and uneven (steps) walking surfaces could cause one to lose their balance. Additionally, navigating areas with poor lighting, floors with depressions and shallow holes, or uncovered drain may lead to a trip.
OSHA’s requirements for preventing slips, trips, and falls can be found in the subpart that covers walking-working surfaces, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D. In this standard, walking and work surfaces include floors, aisles, ladders, platforms, roofs, stairways, and any other horizontal or vertical surface an employee may walk on, work on, or gain access to. Under the OSHA standard, working surfaces are kept clean and dry (when feasible) and maintained free of hazards. When hazardous conditions are identified, it must be remedied or repaired before an employee uses the surface again. If the hazard cannot be immediately addressed, it must be guarded (think of wet floor signs) to keep individuals away from the area.
Additionally, employers are obligated to conduct regular and periodic inspections of their facility’s walking and work surfaces to identify and evaluate slip, trip, and fall hazards. Good housekeeping practices should be put into place to prevent debris and clutter from accumulating, spill kits should be placed around the facility for a quick clean-up, and working-walking surfaces should be kept well lit. Oily or wet floors may benefit from added safety with anti-slip floor marking tape and when necessary.