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Avoiding slips and falls

A slip or fall is nothing to worry about, right? Wrong! Slips, trips and falls account for 30% of all employee accidents in educational facilities and are a leading cause of accidental deaths across the country. Surprising, isn’t it?

Underestimating the risks
It’s very easy to underestimate the danger of these simple, common hazards. Yet slips and falls are responsible for thousands of injuries and compensation claims every year and can cause long-term pain and suffering. While the statistics are daunting, the good news is that that this type of injury is highly preventable. Slips, trips and falls can be easily avoided, simply by following some basic, common-sense safety procedures. The risks of injury are as high at home as they are at work, so preventing slips and falls is everyone’s business.

Slips happen when there is not enough friction between your foot and the walking surface, causing you to lose your balance. Common causes of slips include:

wet or oily surfaces
occasional spills
weather hazards
loose, unanchored rugs and mats

However, slips are most often caused by a sudden change in surface conditions. As your footing becomes less secure, you make split second balance adjustments, which may lead to injuries and falls.

You’re more likely to slip when you step from:

a dry spot to a wet one
a rough floor covering (carpet) to a smooth one (marble tile)
a clean, bare surface onto a patch of something loose or slick

Icy surfaces are an obvious risk, but what about the snow and ice you track inside on your shoes? Pools of water on the floor can be as dangerous as any ice patch. The little things you forget, like mopping up a wet floor, often cause the biggest hazards.

Trips happen when your foot hits an obstacle and you lose your balance. This usually happens when there is a change in walking surfaces, such as a step, uneven flooring, a crumbling surface or clutter in your pathway.

Common trip hazards include:

open filing cabinet drawers
electrical wires or cords
obstructions in walkways
curled floor mats or torn stair treads
running on stairs
poor lighting
pant legs or long skirts caught in shoe heels
cracked or chipped sidewalks
carrying large objects that block your view
hurrying and not paying attention to the surroundings

Falls usually happen when your body movements shift your body too far away from your centre of balance. Any slip or trip can end up in a fall.

Statistics indicate that 60% of all falls happen on the same level. Falls from a height, such as from ladders, roofs or stairs, account for the remaining 40% of fall incidents.

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Prevention checklist
Fortunately, most accidents caused by slips, trips or falls can be prevented. Follow this checklist and help create a safe environment for everyone:

Always pay attention to what you’re doing. This is the most important guideline and the one that will give you the best protection.
Look before you walk – make sure your pathway is clear.
Close desk and cabinet drawers after use.
Make sure electrical cords and wires are securely anchored, away from all walkways.
Report loose carpeting, damaged flooring, uneven sidewalks, broken pavement or other unsafe conditions to the appropriate person.
Clean up spills immediately.
Report and/or replace burned out or missing lights. Make sure stairs and walkways are well lit, especially at night.
Shovel, salt and/or sand stairs and paths to clear ice and snow.
Don’t carry packages that block your view.
Never stand on a chair or convenient object to reach a high object. Always use a Canadian Standard Association approved ladder or stool.
Avoid bending, twisting and leaning backward while seated.
Keep one hand free to hold a handrail when walking on stairs.
If a change in climate makes your glasses foggy, clean them immediately so that you always have a clear view of your surroundings.
When walking on slick or wet surfaces, move slowly so you can react to traction changes.
If a walking surface is slippery or wet, shorten your stride, walk with your feet slightly turned out for better balance and make wide turns.
Wear slip-resistant shoes or boots and dry off your shoes as soon as possible after entering a building (wet shoes on dry floors are almost as dangerous as dry shoes on wet floors).
Use the proper cleaners and finishes on smooth walking surfaces. Apply non-abrasive strips and post warnings, where appropriate.

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Safe falling techniques

These practical suggestions may save you from serious injury during a fall:

When you feel yourself start to fall, let your body go limp. This will allow your body to naturally roll into the fall.
Keep your wrist, elbows and knees bent. Don’t try to break your fall.
Tuck your chin in and throw your arms up to protect your head.
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