Stairs aren’t needed for a “slip and fall”

By Mary E. Russo, CSP, ARM April 5, 2016

For workers' compensation insurers and those in loss control, slips, trips, and falls are all too common a challenge. Prevention is a complex problem and one garnering the attention of scientists across the globe. A recent paper, “State of science: occupational slips, trips and falls on the same level,” written by Wen-Ruey Chang, Sylvie Leclercq, Thurman E. Lockhart, and Roger Haslam and published in the journal Ergonomics, summarizes the state of science regarding slips, trips, and falls on the same level (referred to as STFL in the study), outlining relevant aspects of epidemiology, biomechanics, psychophysics, tribology, organizational influences, and injury prevention.

The authors highlight the injury activity in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other countries to illustrate how widespread the problem of STFL is, regardless of location. For example, the European Commission presented an analysis of almost 4 million non-fatal injuries that occurred at work during 2005, and STFL was the largest category, at 14.4 percent.

The review reaffirms that STFL remain a major cause of workplace injury, and prevention is a problem requiring multidisciplinary, multifaceted approaches. Research shows preventive action is effective, but further studies are required to understand which aspects are most beneficial. The article discusses a number of issues, including studies addressing the effects of age, obesity, and occupational STFL. The authors explore gender differences, composition of the workforce for different occupations, differences in stature and strength, and body mass.

The paper offers prevention tips, including a primary approach of eliminating hazards at the source through the design of the work environment and work/activity systems. It recommends that flooring be selected with appropriate slip resistance for the different conditions to which it’s subjected. Walkways and walking areas should be designed and constructed to avoid trip hazards. The authors discuss how providing sufficient lighting is important to help the visibility of walking surfaces. They recommend creating a plan for cleaning and maintaining pathways and walking surfaces before installation.

The Ergonomics article is just one of the topics covered in scores of news and technical reports Verisk Insurance Solutions’ Engineering and Safety Service (E&STM) sent to subscribers in March. We offer a wide variety of risk control information, with topics vital to our loss control audience. Our experts provide reports and technical services to subscribers on fire protection, workers' compensation, industrial hygiene, commercial vehicles, product liability, general liability, and other topics. You can distribute many E&S reports to policyholders to help educate them on sound risk control. For more information about E&S, click here or download our brochure.


Mary E. Russo

Mary E. Russo, CSP, ARM is a liability manager for Engineering and Safety Service at Verisk Insurance Solutions.