How do falls happen?

In 2006, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that fatal work injuries involving falls increased 5 percent after a sharp decrease in 2005. The 809 fatal falls in 2006 was the third highest total since 1992, when the fatality census began. Fatal falls from roofs increased from 160 fatalities in 2005 to 184 in 2006, a rise of 15 percent.

Statistics show that the majority (60 percent) of falls happen on the same level resulting from slips and trips. The remaining 40 percent are falls from a height. This document will summarize information on “falls on the same level” (slips and trips). Falls from an elevation, such as falls from ladders, roofs, down stairs or from jumping to a lower level, etc., will discussed in another document since each type of fall requires different features in a fall prevention program.

Slips

Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. Common causes of slips are:

  • wet or oily surfaces,
  • occasional spills,
  • weather hazards,
  • loose, unanchored rugs or mats, and
  • flooring or other walking surfaces that do not have same degree of traction in all areas.

 Trips

Trips happen when your foot collides (strikes, hits) an object causing you to lose the balance and, eventually fall. Common causes of tripping are:

  • obstructed view,
  • poor lighting,
  • clutter in your way,
  • wrinkled carpeting,
  • uncovered cables,
  • bottom drawers not being closed, and
  • uneven  walking surfaces (steps, thresholds).

How to prevent falls due to slips and trips?

Both slips and trips result from some a kind of unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. This shows that good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear, and appropriate pace of walking are critical for preventing fall accidents.

 Housekeeping

Good housekeeping is the first and the most important (fundamental) level of preventing falls due to slips and trips. It includes:

  • cleaning all spills immediately,
  • marking spills and wet areas,
  • mopping or sweeping debris from floors,
  • removing obstacles from walkways and always keeping them free of clutter,
  • securing (tacking, taping, etc.) mats, rugs and carpets that do not lay flat,
  • always closing file cabinet or storage drawers,
  • covering cables that cross walkways,
  • keeping working areas and walkways well lit,
  • replacing used light bulbs and faulty switches.

Without good housekeeping practices specialty footwear or training on techniques of walking and safe falling will never be fully effective.

 How to Fall

Some techniques to follow if you cannot prevent a slip or fall:

¨ If possible, try to fall on your side or buttocks. Roll over naturally, turning your head in the direction of the roll.

¨ Keep your wrists, elbows and knees bent. Do not try to break the fall with your hands or elbows

¨ Take several deep breaths after falling. If you feel you have suffered an injury, do not try to get up. Call for help.

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