Be careful, especially this time of year. Slips, trips and falls are the second leading cause of death in the workplace, and they also result in more than a million hospital visits per year.
Falling snow, plunging temperatures and ice everywhere make for hazardous conditions. Nearly 80 percent of all falls are attributed to the presence of snow and ice on stairs, walkways and loading docks.
Even after being plowed, parking lots and sidewalks can be treacherous and should be approached with caution. Dew, fog, or water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces and form a nearly invisible layer of ice.
Businesses and companies can take a number of measures to help prevent or reduce falls. The first is making a plan for dealing with winter weather, including ensuring snow removal, and stocking up on supplies, including snow blowers, shovels, ice melt, rock salt and sand.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has a checklist of items that should be included in any proactive winter plan.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also suggests that companies place floor mats and area rugs at exterior doorways to prevent slips on uncarpeted surfaces. Another OSHA idea is to locate buckets and mops nearby to clean up melting snow.
Shoes and boots with thermoplastic rubber soles are often considered ideal for working in cold weather. Ice cleats can provide additional traction in extremely slippery conditions. For more information about OSHA's walking working surfaces requirements and/or dealing with winter weather hazards, visit its website.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that slips, trips and falls make up a majority of general industry accidents, which account for:
- 15 percent of all accidental deaths per year, the second leading cause behind car accidents.
- About 25 percent of all reported injury claims per fiscal year.
- More than 95 million lost work days per year, which accounts for about 65 percent of all workdays lost.
The Department of Labor offers these tips for navigating January and February:
- Be prepared to fall and try to avoid using your arms to break your fall. If you fall backward, make an effort to tuck your chin so your head doesn't strike the ground with full force.
- When entering a building, remove as much snow and water from your boots as you can.
- Also use special care when entering and exiting vehicles. Be sure to use your car or truck for support.
- Bending your knees a little and taking slower and shorter steps increases traction and can reduce your chances of falling. It can also help to stop occasionally to break momentum.
But if you should be injured due to carelessness or negligence of an employer, don't hesitate to contact Hochman & Plunkett, a Dayton, Ohio, law firm with 150 years of combined experience in workers' compensation cases.