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‘Slip and fall’ is more than a stairway problem

slip and fall imageSlips, trips, and falls occur all too frequently for workers’ compensation insurers and loss-control professionals. Scientists around the world are attacking the complex problem of preventing these accidents.

Nature of falls

Falls usually take place from one level to another. Falls on stairways are common but even more so, slips, trips, and falls on the same level result in serious injury or death for thousands. A recent paper sums up the latest science concerning slips, trips, and falls on the same level (referred to as STFL in the study), including relevant aspects of epidemiology, biomechanics, psychophysics, tribology, organizational influences, and injury prevention.

The paper, State of science: occupational slips, trips and falls on the same level, was written by Wen-Ruey Chang, Sylvie Leclercq, Thurman E. Lockhart, and Roger Haslam and published in the journal Ergonomics. The authors examine injury activity in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other countries to show how widely prevalent STFL is across many locations. For example, STFL emerged as the largest category, at 14.4 percent, when the European Commission analyzed almost 4 million non-fatal workplace injuries that occurred during 2005.

The review shows that STFL is still a major cause of workplace injury, and that prevention calls for multidisciplinary, multifaceted approaches. Research shows prevention to be effective, but more study is needed to understand which measures yield the most benefit. The article discusses various issues, including studies on how age, obesity, and occupation affect STFL. The authors also look at gender differences, workforce demographics in different occupations, variations in height and strength, and body mass.

The paper presents methods for prevention, including a primary approach of designing the work environment and work/activity systems to reduce inherent hazards at the source. It recommends:

  • Choosing flooring with slip resistance appropriate to the various conditions to which it is exposed.
  • Designing and constructing walkways and walking areas to avoid trip hazards.
  • Providing lighting to give sufficient visibility on walking surfaces.
  • Creating a plan to clean and maintain pathways and walking surfaces before installation.

Ergonomics is just one of the topics covered in scores of news and technical reports that Verisk Insurance Solutions’ Engineering and Safety Service (E&S™) recently sent to subscribers. 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, CSP, ARM

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

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