We picked up some practical insights from the article, “Don’t Trip Over the Basics,” by W. David Yates, on ohsonline.com. This article discusses work related injuries involving falls, and how to prevent them. According to the article, 971 out of 5,147 work-related fatalities in the U.S. were caused by falls in 2017. Clearly this is a serious issue and many measures can be implemented to protect employees. The main takeaways from the article are as follows.
According to Yates, people only pick up their feet about half an inch while walking, therefore anything protruding from the ground at least half an inch is a tripping hazard. Examples in the workplace or site include cracks, cables/hoses, curled floor mats, and dips in a walkway. One way to prevent trips is by hanging cables and hoses off the ground or covering them. Rugs, mats, and carpets should also be secured to the ground.
Slipping is a second common cause of a fall. OSHA has specific workplace requirements to protect workers from slips, as they can cause muscle strains, broken bones, and even head injuries. Spills must be cleaned up immediately, barricades and/or signs should be in place to warn others of a slick surface, and floors should be swept frequently. OSHA also makes a recommendation for floor friction, which is measured by a coefficient of friction. The OSHA recommended minimum coefficient of friction for flooring is 0.5.
Falls from ladders are also a significant cause of workplace injuries and fatalities. First, it is necessary to know how much weight a latter is meant to hold. This is labeled on the side rails of a ladder. Second, it is necessary to know what material the ladder is made of before using it for certain jobs. For example, wooden ladders are prone to water damage, but do not conduct electricity. Metal ladders conduct electricity, so they cannot be used if there is a chance of coming into contact with an electricity source. In addition to these considerations, OSHA mandates certain rules pertaining to the use of extension ladders and fixed ladders. Extension ladders must extend three feet beyond the landing point, and the base must be ¼ of the height away from the supporting wall. Fixed ladders must be 42 inches above the landing platform and must be surrounded by a cage if connecting levels 20 feet or more apart from each other.
As a final note, proper lighting is an important factor for preventing falls. Although OSHA only sets specific standards for the construction industry, all employers should take common sense measures to ensure that all falling hazards are clearly visible at all times. Taking proper safety measures to prevent trips, slips, and falls to a lower level is necessary to protect your employees and organization.