# "SLIPS, TRIPS AND FALLS IN CONSTRUCTION ENVIRONMENTS"

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1 PRESENTER'S GUIDE "SLIPS, TRIPS AND FALLS IN CONSTRUCTION ENVIRONMENTS" Part of the "CONSTRUCTION SAFETY KIT" Series Quality Safety and Health Products, for Today...and Tomorrow

2 OUTLINE OF MAJOR PROGRAM POINTS The following outline summarizes the major points of information presented in the program. The outline can be used to review the program before conducting a classroom session, as well as in preparing to lead a class discussion about the program. According to OSHA, slips, trips and falls account for a significant portion of construction industry accidents. Falls result in 15% of all accidental deaths, second only to motor vehicle fatalities. It's important to realize that it doesn't take falling from a high place to injure you. Simply slipping on a wet floor, or tripping over a small object can result in a fall that lands you in the hospital with a broken bone, strained back or concussion. To avoid these types of accidents, you need to understand how your body maintains its balance as your "center of gravity" changes. "Center of gravity" is defined as the point at which the entire weight of an object can be balanced. Most people aren't conscious of their center of gravity, yet it is an integral part of every movement that you make. Imagine that you're standing straight up. Now draw a triangle, with your feet forming the two points at the base, and the third point of the triangle at your lower back. This upper point is roughly where your center of gravity is. These three points constantly change position as you move. If the upper point, your center of gravity, extends out past the lower points you will lose your balance and unless you regain it, you'll fall. 1

5 When you walk, you build up more momentum than someone who walks slower or weighs less than you do. Likewise, when you carry a heavy object you create more momentum than when you aren't carrying anything at all. The more momentum that you produce, the more friction you need between the soles of your shoes and the walking surface to keep you from slipping (and the more difficult it is for you to regain your footing and stop yourself from falling). Different walking surfaces provide varying degrees of friction. Plywood flooring has a lot more friction than a smooth concrete floor. A dry tile floor provides more friction than one that's wet. You can avoid slipping by being aware of the type of surface that you're walking on, and knowing how much traction it provides. Let's look at some of the walking surfaces that you may encounter. They can be divided into three types: Non-slip. Moderately slippery. Slippery. "Non-slip" surfaces provide traction regardless of whether they are wet or dry. They include: Carpet. Rough-textured concrete. Textured steel plate. Surfaces covered with abrasive paint or non-slip coatings. "Moderately slippery" surfaces are reasonably slip-resistant when they're dry, but can be very slippery when they're wet. These include: Unpolished ceramic tile. Vinyl. Smooth concrete. Unfinished wood. 4

6 "Slippery" surfaces don't provide much traction, wet or dry. They include: Polished marble and tile. Smooth metal. Freshly painted concrete. Varnished wood. Ice. Most slippery situations around a construction site tend to be places where liquids, such as oil or water, can build up. Often the surfaces in these locations are composed of moderately slippery materials, such as vinyl, tile or concrete, which can become skating rinks when they get wet. If possible, these areas should be covered with "non-slip" materials, such as cardboard, wood or carpet remnants. As you leave your work site, you also need to be careful when walking on sidewalks and pavements that may be wet or icy. In addition to water and oil, there are other slippery materials that you need to keep an eye out for, such as: Dirt. Sand. Dry sawdust. Metal shavings. Packaging materials. Loose gravel. Grease. Street grime. You also need to be careful when you're walking on ramps or other sloping surfaces, since the likelihood of slipping increases when a surface isn't level. Keeping things neat, tidy and well maintained can go a long way in helping to avoid slips, trips and falls. For instance, you have to be able to see hazards to avoid them, so simply replacing a burned out light bulb can prevent you from tripping over something. 5

7 To help prevent slipping, keep walking surfaces dry and clean up loose material. You can use absorbent substances such as vermiculite, sand or even sawdust to soak up something like grease or oil. Be sure to sweep everything up when you're done. You can also use plywood or a piece of carpeting to cover a slippery spot. Make sure that these lie flat and stay in place, so that they don't create a tripping hazard. Remember, even small items such as nails and screws can cause people to "skate" across the floor. So pick them up whenever you see them. You slip on surfaces, but you trip on objects. Materials and tools that are left where people walk are a leading cause of trips. Inspect stairways, to ensure that they're clear of debris. Check to see that hand-rails are firmly attached, and use them whenever you go up or down stairs. Loose floorboards, torn carpet, protruding nails and small potholes in the floor are also dangerous. So keep an eye out for some of these smaller hazards. When you're working with tools that have power cords, make sure to use the nearest power source. Keep the cords coiled and as close to you as possible. If you need to run a power cord across a high traffic area, tape it down. But try not to leave it there for more than a few hours, since the tape will eventually loosen. A clean and well maintained workplace can eliminate many slip hazards, but to be truly slip-resistant you also need to wear the proper shoes. 6

9 The soles of most work shoes and boots have especially deep treads. These channel water away to prevent you from slipping just like the tread on automobile tires channels away water to keep cars from skidding. Whatever footwear you choose, make sure that it's in good shape. Inspect your shoes for worn laces, torn stitches and loose soles. Remember to look for imbedded foreign objects (even a small stone or thumbtack can turn a slip-resistant shoe into a skate). Falls happen quickly, but if you know how to fall properly you can avoid ending up flat on your face. The important thing to remember is to not tense up. By remaining loose you will decrease the chances of a serious injury. As you fall: Relax. Bend your elbows and knees. Allow your muscles to gradually absorb the impact. Roll in the direction of the fall. Don't try to break a fall with your hands. If you land with all of your body weight on a hand, you could seriously sprain your wrist or break a bone. If a fall does result in an injury, you may need to give the victim first aid, but only if you've been trained to handle the injury. If someone has sprained an arm or leg: Wrap it in an ace bandage. Then apply a cold compress. Keep the injured area elevated and seek medical attention. Broken bones should be stabilized before moving the victim. Always keep the injured limb in the position in which you find it. Put it in a splint and apply an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling. 8

10 Broken bones sometimes require surgery, so don't let the victim eat anything. A person can't be given anesthesia with food in their stomach. If a bone is sticking through the skin, don't move the victim. Call for emergency medical personnel. Keep the victim in the position in which you found them. Don't try to force the bone back into place or clean the wound. You should never move anyone who has been knocked unconscious in a fall, or who may have seriously injured their head, neck, back or hips. Keep them immobile and call 911 to get emergency medical help. * * * SUMMARY * * * Being sure footed is important whatever type of work you're doing. Let's review what you can do to avoid slips, trips and falls. Maintain your center of gravity, with good posture and by carrying objects low and close to your body. Pay attention to the surface that you're walking on, and look for slip and trip hazards. Cover slippery floors with plywood, carpet remnants or other materials that provide traction. Clean up spills and keep walking areas free of obstacles. Wear the proper shoes or boots for the conditions that you'll be working in. If you do fall, remember to relax and roll with it. \$ Slips, trips and falls can be more serious than you think. But watching where you walk, and "staying on your toes", will keep you on your feet! 9

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From the Field By Tony Smith, ISRI Safety Outreach Director Fall Protection Training Guidebook Gravity is a force that we are all bound to and falling or having an object fall on us is something that we