Think slip and fall injuries are no big deal? Consider these statistics from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration):
- They are the second leading cause of accidental death (behind motor vehicle accidents)
- They account for nearly 15 percent of all accidental deaths
Some of these accidents are simply happenstance, but many are a result of key causes. Here’s a closer look at those causes and the steps that can be taken to prevent or minimize them.
Hazardous walking surfaces. These account for 55 percent of slip and fall accidents according to the National Floor Safety Institute. Hazards include debris on the floor, wet floors, uneven sidewalks, potholes in parking lots, torn carpet, and staircases in disrepair.
Solution: Do what Mom said: “Watch where you’re going!” It’s age-old advice, but it will pay dividends if it keeps you from stumbling over an electrical cord or a piece of trash that was left on the ground. Stay out of areas with inadequate lighting. Repair carpeting or sidewalks in and around your home that you or others could trip on. And if you encounter any of these hazards at work, talk to your employer immediately about improving them for the safety of all workers.
Age. Elderly people are at a greater risk for slip and fall accidents. They may not have the quick reflexes, sense of balance, or keen eyesight that they used to. When nursing home caregivers are not vigilant in monitoring and assisting their residents, it opens the door for accidents such as broken legs or hips that can be devastating to seniors.
Solution: There’s no preventing the challenges that come with old age, but there are some ways to manage them so that you are less prone to slip and fall injuries. Have your eyes checked regularly as you age to ensure that you have the proper prescription. Stay physically active; it can help with your balance so you’re less likely to fall. It can also strengthen your bones so that if you do fall, you’re less likely to sustain a break or fracture. If you are aging and start to feel less steady when you walk, don’t hesitate to use an assistive device such as a cane or walker.
Poor on-the-job training. Slip and fall injuries are very common in the workplace. In fact, the CDC attributes a quarter of nonfatal work injuries resulting in missed work to slips, trips and falls. Many industries, such as manufacturing, construction, and hospitality, require people to walk in conditions that are not optimal (think of cluttered warehouse floors, roof construction, or wet spills at restaurants). Employers should train their employees properly so that they know how to safely navigate these occupational hazards, but unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
Solution: OSHA issued more stringent slip and fall-related requirements in 2017, applying some rules that used to be specific to the construction industry to small businesses in general. Employers are required to conduct a hazard assessment for falls and determine if they need additional equipment to mitigate the hazard. They also need to conduct regular inspections of walking and working areas (floors, stairs, ladders, etc.) to find hazards. In addition, there are new requirements to train employees in fall-protection systems and equipment. If you are at a workplace that is not compliant with OSHA standards, bring this to the attention of your employer. If they are unwilling to make important changes, you can contact OSHA or consult an accident injury lawyer before someone gets hurt.
Improper footwear. According to the National Floor Institute, a quarter of slips and falls could be prevented if people would wear appropriate footwear. Often, it is a case of inadequate traction on shoes that are worn on slick surfaces.
Solution: Many falls happen at home, so if you’re used to padding around the house in socks or simply bare feet, opt for a non-slip shoe. Loose or heavy shoes or those with high heels can be a slip and fall risk in all situations. Shoes or boots should have good tread if you will be walking on wet or slippery surfaces. Keep in mind that closely-patterned treads and treads with shallow depths won’t do a good job of dispersing liquids and may cause you to hydroplane on slick surfaces. Plastic-soled shoes are also a problem as they don’t provide much grip. Inspect the tread on your shoes regularly to ensure that they are in good enough shape to provide effective traction.
Ladders and stairs. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, ladders are the leading cause of deaths on construction sites. In addition, they’re responsible for roughly 300 deaths in the U.S. each year. Stairs can also be dangerous, especially when they have wobbly handrails (or no handrails at all) or uneven steps.
Solution: Always use the handrail on stairs and avoid carrying anything that could obstruct your view. Don’t run or skip steps. Avoid using a staircase if it is in disrepair. As for ladders, make sure that they are set up according to manufacturer specifications on firm, level, and dry ground. Maintain three points of contact with the ladder at all times—two hands and at least one foot. Face the ladder as you are climbing, and make sure to wear slip-resistant shoes.
Weather. Icy walkways that have not been treated with salt or surfaces that are slick from rain can greatly increase the risk for slips and falls.
Solution: Thankfully, ice is rare in Las Vegas, but if you encounter it while traveling, make sure you have on shoes with proper traction. You might need to shuffle for stability and bend forward slightly to maintain balance. Pull your hands out of your pockets, and be prepared to fall. If you’re walking on wet surfaces, take your time, wear the right shoes, and keep your feet pointed slightly outward for better control.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident due to the negligence of others, contact an accident injury attorney. Premise owners have the responsibility to keep conditions safe. If they failed to do so and you are suffering because of it, we can help you get the medical care you need and the compensation that you deserve.