Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls
No substitute for knowledge, experience and presence of mind
BY: David A. Kolman, Senior Editor
YOU MAY NOT GIVE MUCH THOUGHT TO SLIPPING, TRIPPING AND FALLING; YET, YOU SHOULD. HERE’S WHY. Of all workplace safety incidents, slips, trips and falls (STF) have the highest frequency. Falls are the second largest source of injury following vehicle accidents, and a significant number of falls involve workplace related vehicles, including trucks.
You may be surprised to know that falls from as low as four feet can result in serious injury, possibly even death. The average person’s reaction time is about half a second. That’s all it takes to fall four feet. As you fall, gravity quickly increases your speed, and impact forces increase as well.
Research indicates that a person falling from a height of four feet will hit the ground with impact forces as high as 12 times body weight. Take a 250-pound male trucker, for example. He would hit the ground with a force of up to 3,000 pounds. Safety officials say STF are typically due to workers acting hastily, inattention to the task at hand, complacency, fatigue and horseplay. What’s more, they note that truckers’ overall fitness and health can affect their dexterity and agility.
While STF are the most common incidents, they—and their resulting injuries—are also among the most preventable. The keys are moving carefully and remaining alert and conscious of slip, trip and fall hazards.
The various slip, trip and fall hazards truckers face every day can be placed in four categories:
1. Mounting and Dismounting Vehicles
Lack of a three-point contact on the vehicle
Accessing the trailer for inspection, loading/unloading, tarping/untarping and securing/loosening the load
Climbing on the vehicle to clean lights and windshields and connect/disconnect air and electrical lines
All too often, note safety officials, truck drivers fail to maintain three-point contact. Keep three of your four limbs in contact with the vehicle at all times—two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand, so only one limb is in motion at any time. Having three points of contact provides maximum stability and support, otherwise, a driver is unstable and easily imbalanced, so any misstep or faulty grip could result in an accident.
2. Loading Docks
Gaps between the truck and dock
Climbing up/down the dock ladder
Debris, obstacles and clutter, such as metal bands, shrinkwrap, pieces of lumber, skids, trash, etc.
Frequently crowded, heavy-traffic areas
Metal dock plates and ramps that are worn smooth and slippery
Dock plate edges
Changes in elevation leading into a warehouse.
Loading ramps leading into a trailer
Environmental conditions such as: snow, ice, rain, mud, grease, morning dew
Not keeping doors under control when opening/closing
Slippery and wet floors
Improper use of pallets or freight as stepladders
Unstable/shifting freight when loading/unloading
Improper attaching/releasing chains or straps
4. Parking Lots, Walking Surfaces, Fuel Areas
Sloped, uneven, loose, irregular surfaces
Spilled fuels, oils, lubricants, etc.
Wet restroom and shower floors
Working in transportation presents many types of slip, trip and fall hazards. Three keys to being safe are:
1. Be aware of hazards and know how to deal with them
2. Pay attention to your surroundings
3. Stay focused on the task you’re performing
The 12 tips on the next page serve as great STF reminders. Please share them with others in your organization as appropriate.
12 Stay-Safe Tips
- Wear appropriate footwear with good foot and ankle support and slip-resistant soles and heels.
- Face forward and always use the three points of contact when climbing onto or down from a vehicle.
- Keep tools, gloves, brushes, fire extinguishers, etc., in their proper places and out of the cab entry/exit path.
- Observe walking surfaces, looking for any holes, raised elevations, slippery or slick surfaces, obstructions, etc. Use extra caution in adverse conditions, such as snow, ice, rain and mud.
- When walking around a truck at night, always use a flashlight.
- Never jump off freight, vehicles or loading platforms.
- Watch out for “bad housekeeping” such as loose materials, trash, discarded shrink wrap, cargo bars, broken pallets, clutter, etc. on loading docks, parking lots, terminals, etc.
- Use extreme caution securing/loosening a load on a flatbed.
- When inside bodies and trailers, be alert for slippery spots and loose material.
- Because loading docks and ramps are dangerous areas:
Be conscious of uneven surfaces between the truck/trailer bed and the dock or ramp
Ensure that dock plates/ramps are properly placed
Be careful on dock plates/ramps that are worn smooth or may be slippery
When walking along a loading dock or through a warehouse, be aware of powered material handling equipment
- Always check to make sure your truck is finished being loaded/unloaded and that any and all vehicle-restraining devices have been removed before pulling out.
- Move cautiously and deliberately because inattention, fatigue, stress and haste can increase the risk for a slip, trip or fall.