FALL FACTORS: Understanding & Preventing Slips, Trips & Falls

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2 Once we lean forward or backward and allow our center of gravity to move beyond our base of support, we will quickly lose our balance and fall unless we move our center of gravity back over our base, or we move our base of support so that it remains under our center of gravity. In fact, the simple act of walking is really just the repetitive act of controlled falling. Walking is achieved by leaning forward until your center of gravity shifts beyond the base of support causing a momentary loss of balance which is corrected by moving a foot forward, shifting the base of support and re-establishing stability, at least until the next step. In other words, walking is a series of controlled, momentary losses of balance. Unfortunately, it doesn t take much to interfere with this process, preventing us from regaining stability and leading to a fall. FALL FACTORS There are a few factors which are involved in every fall. We like to refer to them as fall factors. Balance is one fall factor which we have already discussed. Gravity Another fall factor is gravity. Gravity is a constant force that pulls us downward and gravity is not gentle. Gravity accelerates objects towards the ground at a rate of 32 feet per second squared. With the force of gravity always pulling us downwards, it s no wonder that even a small fall can cause big injuries. Friction In addition to balance and gravity, another fall factor is friction, or more specifically, a lack of friction. Friction is the force which resists the movement of one solid object relative to another. For example, friction prevents this block from sliding down the slope; however, adding a slippery substance reduces friction and allows the brick to slide easily. Anytime we step, turn or stop while walking or running, we depend on friction between the sole of our footwear and the traveling surface to prevent our feet from sliding. A loss of friction, also called a loss of traction, can cause our feet to slip. When this occurs, our base of support is no longer under our center of gravity, leading to a loss of balance and a possible fall. Maintaining sufficient friction or traction while walking is critical to preventing falls. This is why friction is a fall factor which must be controlled. Momentum The last fall factor we will discuss is momentum. Momentum is a function of an object s mass and speed. An object s momentum determines how much force is required in order to bring the object to a stop. One way to think about momentum is to remember Sir Isaac Newton s first Law of Motion: An object in motion tends to stay in motion. For example, a person walking at a normal pace can easily stop when confronted with an unexpected hazard. Should this same person decide to run, they will have a more difficult time stopping when confronted with the same hazard. This is because running creates more momentum than walking. Momentum can become a fall factor in a variety of ways. First, developing excess momentum by traveling too fast can make it difficult to stop when confronted by an unexpected hazard.

5 Another common tripping hazard, especially in an office setting is open drawers, especially the lower drawer of filing cabinets. When opening drawers, get in the habit of closing them right away, even if you plan on coming back soon. An open drawer is hard to see and presents a serious hazard. Finally, faulty floor mats, loose carpeting and damaged floor tiles are frequently cited as the cause of tripping incidents. While we typically can t fix these items ourselves, we can report them to the proper authority so they can be repaired. UNSAFE ACTS There is another factor which contributes to many falls which we have not yet discussed: unsafe acts committed by employees. We ve already discussed the importance of scanning our path of travel for hazards while walking. Anything that prevents us from doing so is a distraction and should be considered an unsafe act. Shouting at co-workers across the facility, taking part in intense conversations, daydreaming or simply looking around at other things, and of course reading, texting or using any type of device that takes your eyes away from your path of travel is unsafe and must be avoided. Many slips, trips and falls occur when employees neglect to turn on the proper lighting to travel through an area. Always turn on the lights before walking through dark areas. And don t carry loads which block your vision, and prevent you from seeing your path of travel. Prevent falls by staying on the correct path. Marked aisle ways, conveyor crossings, pipe crossings and similar approved pathways are designed to keep you safe. Venturing into unauthorized travel areas, which are not designed for pedestrian traffic, is an unsafe act which can quickly lead to a fall injury. No matter what the circumstances are, never run at work. Make no mistake; running at work is committing a very unsafe act. When we run, we have much less time to scan our path of travel for hazards. When we run we have less time to react to changing conditions. Running increases our momentum, not only making it much easier to fall, but also increasing the force with which we hit the floor or strike objects. This can greatly increase the severity of injury. Another unsafe act which frequently contributes to fall injuries is horseplay. Horseplay typically involves a variety of unsafe acts: distracted workers, running and traveling beyond approved walkways, to name just a few. Don t be tempted to engage in this type of unsafe behavior and don t be afraid to speak up and put a stop to horseplay and other unsafe acts if you see them taking place. Avoiding slip, trip and fall hazards takes focus and effort under the best of conditions. Don t increase your risk by committing these types of unsafe acts.

6 PREPARE FOR THE SAFETY MEETING Review each section of this Leader's Guide as well as the DVD or digital media. Here are a few suggestions for using the program: Make everyone aware of the importance the company places on health and safety and how each person must be an active member of the safety team. Introduce the program and then play it without interruption. Review the program content by presenting the information in the program outline. Here are some suggestions for preparing your video equipment and the room or area you use: Check the room or area for quietness, adequate ventilation and temperature, lighting and unobstructed access. Check the seating arrangement and the audiovisual equipment to ensure that all participants will be able to see and hear the program. CONDUCTING THE PRESENTATION Begin the meeting by welcoming the participants. Introduce yourself and give each person the opportunity to become acquainted if there are new people joining the training session. Explain that the primary purpose of the program is to discuss the four main fall factors and the techniques and safe work practices we can use to control them from contributing to fall-related incidents. Introduce the program. Play it without interruption. Review the program content by presenting the information in the program outline. Lead discussions about specific work areas and job tasks that place employees at risk of a slip, trip or fall and the precautions they should take to prevent a fall-related incident. After watching the program, the viewer will be able to explain the following: How controlling our center of gravity helps us maintain our balance; How gravity, friction and momentum contribute to slips, trips and falls; What precautions to take to prevent falls resulting from slips; Why it is important to wear proper footwear for the traveling surface; What measures to take to avoid falls resulting from trips; What types of unsafe acts contribute to fall-related incidents.

7 FALL FACTORS: Understanding & Preventing Slips, Trips & Falls REVIEW QUIZ Name Date The following questions are provided to check how well you understand the information presented during this program. 1. Falls are the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities. a. first b. second c. third 2. When standing normally, our center of gravity is located. a. between our feet b. near our upper back c. near our lower back 3. The simple act of walking is really just the repetitive act of controlled falling. a. true b. false 4. At which rate does gravity accelerate objects toward the ground? a. 8 feet per second b. 16 feet per second c. 32 feet per second 5. When walking across slippery areas, using a wider stance and pointing your feet slightly can help you remain balanced. a. inward b. outward 6. Most slips occur due to the lack of friction between the walking surface and the heel of your shoe. a. true b. false 7. You should only use stairwells for storage when you plan to remove the stored items before your shift ends. a. true b. false 8. Running at work is not considered an unsafe act. a. true b. false

8 ANSWERS TO THE REVIEW QUESTIONS 1. b 2. c 3. a 4. c 5. b 6. a 7. b 8. b

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