Slips, Trips & Falls
Whoops! Crash! These are sounds no manager wants to hear in his/her establishment. However, drips, spills and splashing are facts of life, especially in foodservice operations. According to a number of store owners, rainy days are a nightmare for them. “The last thing I need is one of my customers slipping on wet tile, and I’m worried about my employees forgetting to put out the wet floor signs,” said one manager.
According to OSHA, most general industry incidents involve slips, trips, and falls, which make up almost 20 percent of all job-related injuries. These accidents can be extremely costly to employers and employees alike, with an average of 11 days out of work from slips, trips and falls (approximately 17% of all lost-time work injuries) according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The National Safety Council reported that “fall from the same level” was the second highest cause of disabling workplace injuries in 2011, resulting in $7.6 billion nationally in medical, insurance and compensations costs.
Slips can happen anywhere in your establishment, and occur when floors or other working surfaces become slippery from wet or oily processes. These include floor cleaning, weather related moisture tracked into the establishment, leaking equipment, wet warewashing areas, grease or food debris splatters in pathways. Trips can result from uneven floors, protruding nails or floor tiles, bunched floor mats, uneven carpeting, narrow or uneven stairs.
Both slips and trips can result in falls by your employees as well as customers. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are two types of falls – “same-level” falls and “elevated” falls. 65% of fall-related injuries occur as a result of falls from same-level walking surfaces- the services, wholesale, and retail trade industries account for over 60% of the injuries from “same-level” falls. Elevated falls are more serious, resulting in more severe injuries, and 60% of all elevated falls are from a height of less than 10 feet. Here are some eye-opening statistics:
- Approximately 20 – 30%* of people who slip and fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, head and back injuries, and long-term medical complications. Slip and fall accidents account for 46% of fatal falls among older Americans
- The most common fractures that occur from slip and fall accidents are fractures are of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand
- Slips, trips and fall injuries account for between 12 and 15 percent of all Workers' Compensation expenses*
- These accidents cost employers approximately $40,000 per incident**
Shiny, polished tile floors are very attractive, but also can be slippery and dangerous when wet or greasy. Wintry weather and rainy days are especially hazardous with snow and moisture tracked inside stores. Floor mats, carpets and stairways can be potential tripping hazards if not maintained properly. Here are some tips for preventing slips and falls in kitchens, warewashing areas, bars, dining rooms, restrooms:
- Mop spills and splashes immediately when they occur. Absorbent pads may be used to cover over small wet areas, until you have time to clean the area properly.
- Rubber mats are helpful to prevent slips in warewashing, cooking and bar areas. Clean and maintain them regularly
- Post “Wet floor” tent signs after washing floors, and dry floors thoroughly if they must be used immediately. Folding or cone-shaped signs are visible from all directions, and some can be wall-mounted for easy access.Other varieties can mount on doors and walls with suction cups, rolling up conveniently with a push-button.
- Entryways should have absorbent floor mats to soak up water, slush, mud and ice and prevent customers from slipping on wet areas
- Maintain integrity of floor mats and carpeting to prevent folding, curling edges or bunched sections that could present a tripping hazard
- Provide sturdy, secure ladders for hard-to-reach storage areas, and train employees on ladder safety
- Keep stairways to basements and other areas clear of obstacles, with evenly spaced, well-maintained boards and risers
- Train all employees who might be exposed to fall hazards, as mandated by OSHA. Training would include preventing wet or greasy floors, strategies and tools for cleaning up spills and wet areas promptly, correcting situations that present tripping and falling risks
Your well-honed eye to potential hazards in the kitchen and proper response has benefits for everyone: employees’ safety and continued employment, lower worker’s compensation and insurance rates, reduced liability from both customers and employees, safe and satisfied customers. As always, prevention is the key to a safe and successful food environment.
By Cindy Rice, RS