Slipping and falling is no laughing matter

Be aware of your surroundings to avoid slips, trips and falls.

If you have ever spent time watching homemade videos on television or online, you have probably seen many examples of people slipping, tripping and falling. While these videos may seem comical, slips, trips and falls are no laughing matter.

Falls are one of the leading causes of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for nearly 8.6 million visits to emergency departments, according to Injury Facts, 2011. What can we do to help prevent slips, trips and falls? First, be aware of the locations where most falls occur:

  • Doorways
  • Ramps
  • Cluttered hallways
  • Areas with heavy traffic
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Areas prone to wetness or spills
  • Unguarded heights
  • Unstable work surfaces
  • Ladders
  • Stairs

Second, implement actions to prevent falls from occurring. When at the laboratory:

  • Hold on to handrails where they are available.
  • Wear slip resistant footwear.
  • Secure electrical and phone cords out of traffic areas.
  • Use non-skid mats to keep small rugs from slipping.
  • Remove tripping hazards (paper, boxes, clothes, shoes) from stairs and walkways.
  • Periodically check the condition of walkways and steps, and report problems immediately to Roads and Grounds at x3303.
  • Report torn or buckled carpeting and loose tiles to your building manager.
  • Never stand on a chair, table or surface with wheels.
  • Clean up all spills immediately.
  • Alert others of hazards by using cones or barriers and notifying your supervisor or safety officer.

Winter weather presents special challenges in preventing slips, trips and falls. If you must walk on snow or ice, follow these tips to prevent a fall:

  • Look where you are walking to identify slippery surfaces and spot hazards ahead.
  • Walk more slowly than usual.
  • Shorten your stride, keep knees slightly bent and put your foot down flat on the ground with feet pointed slightly outward.
  • Consider acquiring and wearing slip-on ice cleats. They are available in the Fermilab stockroom, stock number 2278-10xxxx.

To avoid ending up as one of the subjects of a pratfall video, Take Five for safety.

John Martzel