Slips and Trips

Tis' The Season To Get Injured, Fa la la la, la la la la!

Grant Posted by Eric Grant, CSP

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says there were approximately 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating in November and December, 2012. This translates to 250 injuries per day during the holiday season!

Of these 15,000 emergency room visits, 34% involved falls, while 11% were the results of lacerations, and another 10% stemmed from strained backs.

In New England, the month of December often means the beginning of “slip in the parking lot season.” These are workers who park their car at 7 am and do not make it into the building. Employers should develop a plan to maintain parking lots and walkways. Consider freeze/thaw cycles that occur early in the season.

The office cubicle decorating contest promotes seasonal creativity and competition can get fierce. Problems arise when we stand on our office chair, desktop, or cardboard box to reach those hard to get to places. Even the storage room company ladder or step-stool, in good condition and set-up properly, can expose employees to hazards not common in the office environment. Inspect and utilize these tools properly. Avoid standing on your chair, especially with rolling casters!

Holiday decorations look great but they can be highly flammable. According to the CPSC, from 2009-2011, tree and candle fires caused 80 deaths, 700 injuries, and $324 million in property loss. Consider the power source used to light up your office. Extension cords with exposed wires and missing ground prongs should be inspected and removed from service.

Increased holiday demands in the workplace means seasonal hiring. According to the Insurance Journal, in the retail sector alone, 2013 saw 786,200 workers hired for the holiday season. All workers experience workplace stress, increased physical demand, fatigue, and behavioral issues. Add this to the personal stress we feel during the holiday season and the odds of workplace injuries increase. Unsafe behaviors, not unsafe conditions, make up nearly 80% of workplace injuries. Focus on these behaviors along with your compliance prevention strategies.

Policyholders can visit the MEMIC Safety Director to obtain prevention resources on Slips, Trips, Falls, Electrical, Fire, and Ladder Safety. For additional training, review MEMIC’s archived webinars such as Order Fulfillment Safety, Slips, Trips, and Falls, and Winter Driving.

This is a magical time of the year, but it can also be a stressful time. Let’s not make it a season to remember the time you fell off of your desk putting up decorations!

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What's On Your Feet This Winter?

 Koch Peter 1  Posted by Peter Koch

In a recent blog, I discussed strategies for slip and fall prevention.  In this article, we will look more closely at avoiding slip fall incidents through footwear choice rather than surface maintenance.

Slips happen when there is too little friction between what’s on your feet and the surface you’re traversing.  That friction is dependent upon the texture and amount of contact of the two surfaces moving across one another as well as the force applied.  Like car tires, your shoes keep you firmly attached to the surface.  There are many different tread types designed for specific surfaces and environmental conditions you may encounter.

 The deeper and more widely spaced the tread pattern, the more loose material (i.e.: gravel or snow) it can accommodate and still contact the stable surface below.  Because there are fewer contact points with the surface this tread pattern isn’t great for hard wet/oily surfaces like tile or concrete.

A deeply scored, but closely spaced tread pattern can readily squeeze out liquids and provide more surface area for contact with the surface underneath.  There is little room for bulky materials in the tread, allowing clogging and limiting friction.

Some manufactures try to combine the two using a moderately deep tread and
varying the size and spacing of the lugs.Shoes 1

Consider the surface you may encounter.  Is it wet or oily concrete or tile, outside on gravel and pavement, or outside in a wintry frozen environment?  Or will you be exposed to multiple surface types?

One type of shoe/boot may not suffice due to exposures.  An alternative to multiple shoes are traction enhancers that can be put on and taken off as the demands of the environment change.  They come in many styles and types from spikes and screw corks to chains and overshoes with media embedded in the soles.

Shoes 2

Here are some links for more information:

Try searching:  “Slip Resistant Footwear”, “Microspikes”, “Yaktrax”, or “Stabilicers

Since we don’t always have control of the condition of the surface we work on our footwear choices play a big part in keeping us upright as we work. 

Preventing Slips and Falls

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 294,620 employees suffered injuries from slips, trips, or falls.  Of these, 221,100 were from falls to the same level or slip or trip events. 

The National Floor Safety Institute or NFSI  reports : 

  • Slips and falls are the leading cause of workers' compensation claims and are the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 15-24 years.
  • Compensation & medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents is approximately $70 billion annually (National Safety Council Injury Facts 2003 edition).

All slips and falls are preventable with a little planning and forethought.  Since we may have little control of the surface we tread upon, slip and trip avoidance depend heavily on YOU.  Your attention to your surroundings, what you have on your feet, and what you’re doing in the moment are all critical.

Consider the following areas when planning for prevention or analyzing a slip/fall event:

1)  The surface,
2)  The awareness or behavior,
3)  The footwear,
4)  The environment.

It is usually awareness/behavior that contributes the most to a slip or fall occurrence, but the best attack on slip and fall hazards is a combined evaluation of these four areas.

The following is a checklist and mnemonic when evaluating slip and fall hazards and developing a plan for preventing them.

  • Condition and lighting of the surface and pathwayBlog photo
  • Condition of the Footwear
  • Surface Encumbrances (obstacles, fluids)
  • Pitch and Condition of Stairs
  • Location and Condition of Handrails
  • Relevance of Pathway
  • Behavior/Condition of the Worker
  • Pace of Work in/around Pathway


This is not necessarily a complete list of areas to evaluate, so don’t limit yourself when trying to develop a plan for prevention or in post incident analysis.

So Take a MEMIC Minute and remember, ALL slip and fall events are PREVENTABLE!

Stay SAFE from the Winter Slip & Fall

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

It lurks around many a corner, on stairs, down drives, and walkways.  It does not discriminate, taking down men and women of all ages and occupations.  And it doesn’t care about an individual’s physical ability.  Feeding on snow and ice, its tendrils spread to entangle the unwary, putting them flat on their back.  What is this terrible scourge?  The Winter Slip and Fall.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, slip and falls are the third leading cause of workplace injuries and our recent winter weather has only served to increase the tally.   Even though slip and falls are frequent, they don’t have to be an inevitable result of winter weather. 

Generally, a lack of awareness (of slippery or icy conditions) and behavior, are the leading contributors to slips and falls, and the best prevention fits into four areas that can be recalled with the acronym SAFE:

  • Surface – Maintain the surface for the weather and anticipated foot traffic.  Be sure the area is lit properly and that snow removal equipment and sand or salt are readily available.
  • Awareness – Slow down, don’t be in a hurry.  Practice walking safely: shorten your stride and keep a larger portion of your footwear sole in contact with the surface during each step.
  • Footwear – Wear proper footwear for the anticipated conditions.  Wear boots to work and change at the office.  Get traction enhancers like Stabil-Icers or YakTrax to slip over shoes.
  • Environment - When the weather is inclement and temperatures are dropping below freezing, slow the pace of work to allow for better situational and hazard awareness.  Look for low spots or high-traffic areas – where ice can build up – especially when the ground is covered with that initial, light “dusting” of snow.

Keep SAFE-ty in mind, to stay on your feet this winter, and avoid the Winter Slip and Fall.

Don’t Hit the Roof for Snow Removal

Stanley Rod 2 Posted by Rod Stanley

Near-record snow fall this year – coupled with sustained temperatures below freezing – have resulted in significant snow accumulations in much of the US.  A relentless chore, and annoyance, for everyone responsible for keeping driveways, roads and walkways clear, this snow buildup on roofs has the potential for significant property loss.  And, this latter potential has many of us eyeing our rooftops – whether at home or work – deciding whether we need to clear some of this snow before we get more snow or rain, or both. 

Once you’ve decided the “something has to be done” about that snow buildup on the roof – don’t just “Hit the Roof” – take the time to evaluate the following:

Risk Transfer

Can you afford to have a properly insured contractor perform the work?  Roofing and maintenance contractors not only have the people and equipment to do this work, but they should carry insurance for property and personal damage while on your premises.  Although expensive, the cost for paying a professional to take care of the problem is always less than major property damage from a roof leak or the pain, suffering and cost that can go along with a serious fall injury.

Risk Control

Is a roof rake able to remove enough snow, while working at ground level, so that you don’t have to physically get on the roof?  Even if you can’t get, all of the snow with a roof rake, in many cases removing as much snow as possible – before getting on the roof – will limit the possibility of falling, especially near eaves, rake edges and overhangs.

Do you have the ability to safely access the roof?  Roof hatches are the best way to access a roof, but where these aren’t available, properly secured ladders that project at least 3 feet above the eaves are a must.  When getting off, and onto, the ladder, have a specific plan to prevent the ladder from sliding at its top support and pay special attention to ensure the bottom can’t kick out, or slide.  

Once on the roof, how do you ensure that you, or another worker, do not fall off the edge?  On low-slope roofs, tethers, safety monitors and warning lines can prevent workers from accidentally getting too close.  However, on sloped roofs, an aerial lift, lifeline or other traditional fall arrest equipment may be the only way to be protected from sliding and falling off the roof.  Be creative.  A lifeline thrown over the ridge of a building – and tied to a fixed object on the other side – can provide an adequate anchor to prevent a slide down the roof and subsequent fall.

Establish a Policy

Lastly, make sure your workers understand the policy for snow and ice removal from a roof.  If you have transferred the risk – make sure the contact information is readily available and that the contractor has the necessary insurances to cover any damages.  Also, train workers to ensure that they know they are not allowed to work on the roof.

If you decide to have your workers remove snow and ice, conduct basic safety training on roof raking, establishing safe access, and measures to ensure falls from the roof don’t occur.


More Shoveling? Say It Ain’t Snow!

Allan Brown Posted by  Allan Brown

Before you start, consider:

  •  Snow shoveling puts a high physical demand on your heart and back.
  • Avoid snow shoveling after a big meal.  Give yourself 1-2 hours after a meal before you start shoveling.  It takes a lot of blood flow to digest a meal.
  • Avoid caffeine or smoking before and when you’re shoveling.  Both substances will increase your heart rate.
  • Avoid shoveling if you are 40 years or older, suffer a heart condition, or have hypertension.
  • Avoid shoveling if you suffer from low back pain.
  • Avoid shoveling if you are physically inactive.

Dress appropriately:

It’s winter, so layer your clothing.  Not only will this keep you warm, but it will be easier to shed clothing as you warm up. Make sure your clothing doesn’t restrict your ability to move.  Wear appropriate shoes/boots.  Make sure the boots have good traction to reduce slipping.  If it’s icy wear “ice grippers” over boots or shoes to prevent slipping.  Protect your face with sunscreen.

The right shovel:

All shovels are not alike.  Consider a shovel with a bent handle.  This will reduce the amount of bending you’ll have to do when shoveling.  Plastic is lighter than metal, so go light; the snow will provide plenty of weight.

Warm up and stretch your muscles before you shovel:

Prepare your body to do work.  Increase your core temperature by marching in place or with a brisk walk.  Once your core is warm, stretch your shoulders, back, and legs.  These areas of the body will be doing the majority of the work.  Take micro breaks every 10 minutes when shoveling and stretch any tight muscle.

Stop shovelling immediately if:

  • You experience shortness of breath
  • You feel tightness in your chest
  • You begin to experience back pain

Moving snow:

Do it sooner rather than later.  Fresh snow is lighter. Packed snow is tougher to move.  Push snow whenever possible and avoid lifting.  If you have to lift the snow, keep these points in mind:

  • Try to maintain your back as upright as possible.
  • Bend at the hips and knees to load the shovel.
  • Take less snow on the shovel if it is wet and dense.  A shovel full of wet snow can weigh up to 25 pounds.
  • Lift with your legs and hips while keeping your core muscles tight.
  • Avoid twisting, and always pivot the whole body when moving snow.
  • Train yourself to shovel left-handed and right-handed.  This will take a little effort on your part to practice.  It takes about a week to coordinate your body.  Alternate sides every 10 minutes.
  • Take frequent stretch breaks for the shoulders and back.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water before, during, and after shoveling.

When You’re Done:

  • Drink water and eat a healthy snack.
  • Stretch your muscles.


Read a past MEMIC SafetyNet blog titled "The Science of Shoveling".



Don't Let Gravity Get You Down

Henry Reynolds Posted by Henry Reynolds

It is that time of the year when roads and walkways become slippery and hard to walk on.  What we should not forget is that during the year, in any environment, slips trips and falls can be both painful and costly to all persons involved.  Slips, trips and falls are the second leading cause of workplace injuries.

Please note these statistics:

  • 265,000 non-fatal injuries each year.
  • Average cost of a slip, trip, and fall is $27,000 per claims (i.e., medical and lost time).
  • Highest injury frequency of any regulated activity.
  • More than 800 deaths annually.
  • Leading cause of ER visits (National Safety Council).

What can we do to reduce the risk of slips, trips falls?  One place to start is with the identification of hazards. Below are just a few.

Surface Conditions

  • Slippery Floors
  • Uneven walking surfaces
  • Changes in Level
  • Surface protrusions or depressions
  • Poor Housekeeping
  • Lack of Space
  • Carpets, floor mats, cables, extension cords

Task Related Concerns

  • Inappropriate Footwear
  • Carry items that obstruct view
  • Rushing to complete tasks
  • Improper ladder set-up or use of ladder.
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Open Drawers
  • Winter Activities

When evaluating slip, trip, and fall hazards at work remember many of these hazards lurk in our own homes. An injury at home is no less than painful than one at work! Identify hazards in both locations to help keep your co-workers and your family members from suffering gravity's revenge.

For more information on this topic, MEMIC is hosting a webinar on January 27th. You can register online. We will address the above issues and many more in this one-hour webinar.


Federal Law Requires Employers to Protect Employees from Fall Hazards

Stanley Rod 2 Posted by Rod Stanley

The Federal law passed by Congress in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act contains a passage known as the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm…” 

Falls are a “recognized hazard” in the US workplace, accounting for 680, or 13% of the total fatalities reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008.  Accordingly a number of industry-specific regulations are established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to prevent worker injury – and are summarized on the Safety and Health Topics Fall Protection web page. 

Construction, an industry with inherent fall hazards, attributed 332 of the 969 deaths in 2008 to falls, and has a chapter, Subpart M, devoted to fall protection.  This Subpart is divided into four distinct sections:

1926.500 – Scope, application and definitions

1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection

1926.502 – Fall protection systems, criteria and practices

1926.503 – Training requirements

The training requirements in Subpart M state that the employer must assure that each employee understands the following: 

  • Nature of the fall hazards in their work area
  • Correct procedures to protect workers from these fall hazards

The last section of Subpart M is “Certification of Training.”  These standards require the employer to “verify compliance” by preparing a “written certification record” that contains the following:

  • Name or other identity of the employee trained
  • Date(s) of the training
  • Signature of the person who conducted the training or the signature of the employer

The most current training certification must be maintained by the employer, and retraining is required in the following situations:

  • Changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete
  • Changes in the types of fall protection systems or equipment to be used render previous training obsolete
  • Inadequacies in an affected employee's knowledge or use of fall protection systems or equipment indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill.

The OSHA regulations do not require separate documentation, so many employers use job-related, daily paperwork to “certify the training” such as:
  • Job Hazard Analyses, Toolbox Talks, Site-Specific Accident Prevention Plans, Daily Job Logs and Time, Materials and Consumables Records

In summary, the written certification record must detail what was reviewed, who was there, the date, and must include the signature of the employer, or trainer.  In meeting this requirement the “written record” can take a variety of forms, from yellow-lined notebook paper, to computer printed policies, procedures with attendance rosters, to Certificates of Training provided by safety suppliers or training providers. 

What’s most important is that the “nature of the fall hazards” – specific to the job, project or task – are reviewed and methods to protect the worker are detailed.

More workplace safety resources on Fall Protection are available at the MEMIC Safety Director – the online tool for MEMIC policyholders.


There's Nothing Nice About Black Ice

Of all the driving hazards associated with winter, there is one condition that even professional truck drivers’ fear- black ice.  Black ice shows up on pavement when it is least expected.  Dry pavement becomes a shiny, slippery surface in a matter of a few feet, making other vehicles, ditches, guard rails and even buildings an unavoidable target.  Many who walk away from such an accident will say, "It happened just like that."

Has this ever happened to you?  I can personally attest to an increased heart rate due to black ice as I was traveling down the road.  I have also witnessed several accidents that involved personal injury to other drivers due to black ice.  Strange as it may be, for some reason going off the road due to deep snow does not instill the degree of fear that black ice and icy roadways does.  Maybe it is because snow is obvious, but that thin layer of frozen water is not as obvious, and can affect you in a split second.

The way to keep yourself and others safe during this most hazardous of conditions goes right back to driving basics: 
• Maintain an appropriate speed
• Keep a proper distance between you and the car in front of you
• Simple braking and steering techniques
These are just some of the things you can do to keep your airbag where it belongs – inside the dashboard!  Click here for more tips to driving safe on the icy roads.

In addition, there is one more valuable resource when it comes to driving on icy roadways -- the news.  Most of the population has to commute for work or school and the local news, whether it is television or radio, may give you some information you did not know the night before.  While we all feel the weatherman is never right, he or she may be just the person to pass on some valuable roadway information.  Happy motoring!

Slipping and Tripping: The Other Kind of Fall

We have covered the hazards associated with falls in the past.  Obviously, the reason is the severity of injuries associated with falls.  But we've focused primarily on elevated falls, whether from a ladder or a roof. But slips and trips are another kind of fall, though usually less serious, that happen with significantly more frequency.

The numbers are an eye opener. According to the University of Florida,  more than a million people were injured from a slip, trip or fall in 1999.  This resulted in 17,000 deaths and of that number 5,100 were classified as falls from height.  That leaves a whole lot of people slipping and tripping to their death.

Paul Bureau is a MEMIC Safety Specialist who sees too many workplaces that are rife with a slipping and tripping exposures.  Some of his manufacturing clients deal with wet floors, cutting oils, housekeeping deficiencies and other hazards.

In the food service and hospitality sector, wet and greasy floors, housekeeping, and power cords (vacuum cleaners!) cause considerable pain.  The first step for anyone who evaluates safety hazards is: "Can we engineer the problem away?"

In that vein, Paul has been focusing on educating management teams in the use of slip-resistant footwear and industrial mats.  The goal of both is to provide high friction in work areas that are slippery.

Some tripping exposures, especially the electrical cords, are a constant issue no matter the industry.  Training, re-routing, and identifying and covering are the most popular ways to minimize exposure.

Vist these websites for slip-resistant footwear and industrial mat products: