Slips, trips, and falls are a major source of workplace injuries in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut every year. Between 2017 and 2021, over 20% of WSCC claims were caused by slips, trips, and falls. Falls caused by slips and trips often lead to sprains and strains. In the worst cases, these incidents can result in traumatic injuries.
A slip can happen when you lose grip with the surface you’re walking on. Trips occur when you lose your balance. In both cases, injuries can be serious and lead to a long recovery time.
The majority of slips and trips resulting in time lost at work happen during the winter months. Colder weather can generate a perfect storm of conditions that lead to slips, trips, and falls. Roads and walkways are covered in ice and snow, people might not be wearing appropriate footwear for the conditions, and may be distracted or rushing. All of these elements can combine to create painful and embarrassing situations.
It’s not just cold weather conditions that cause slips, trips, and falls in the workplace. These incidents also happen inside, and you must pay attention to minimize the risk of severe injuries. Liquids can make a walking surface slippery. Loose and unanchored rugs or mats, as well as uneven walking surfaces, are also causes of slips and trips. A cluttered floor, uncovered cables, and opened bottom drawers are also common causes of trips.
Slips, trips, and falls can also occur when workers can’t clearly see where they are walking. This can happen if views are obstructed, or if lighting is not sufficient.
Reduce the risks of slips and trips
Workplaces can adopt a few simple strategies to minimize the occurrence of slips, trips, and falls.
Good housekeeping practices are important to reduce workplace injuries related to slips, trips, and falls. Such practices include:
- Clean spills as soon as they happen, and mark any wet areas.
- Ensure walking surfaces are free from debris, obstacles, and clutter.
- Secure mats, carpets, and rugs so they are flat and even.
- Cover cables that cross floors.
- Close drawers, especially those that are lower to the floor.
- Make sure lighting is sufficient for good visibility, and immediately replace burned light bulbs or defective switches.
Improving workplace flooring can greatly reduce the risks of slips and trips. Recoating the surface, installing mats or abrasive strips, or using abrasive-filled coating are some of the solutions to improve traction.
As an individual, you also have a role to play to avoid slipping and falling. Wearing proper footwear for your workplace conditions is one of the best way to reduce your risk. For example, if you work outside in winter, make sure that your boots are rated for cold conditions, as regular footwear will not provide enough traction. If you work in icy conditions, consider using ice cleats.
In addition to appropriate footwear, you can follow other simple precautions to minimize the chances of slipping and tripping:
- Plan for additional time to get where you are going. Watch where you’re going and adjust your stride to the walking surface conditions.
- Make sure any objects you are carrying do not obstruct your view.
- Keep one hand free when possible to keep balance, hold a handrail.
- Take wide turns when turning corners.
- Use a flashlight or headlamp when entering a dark room or space.
Here are a few additional resources about preventing slips, trips, and falls: