According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), slips, trips and falls account for 15 percent of all accidents and are second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of occupational fatalities.
Employers are required by law to provide employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. Businesses with third party foot traffic on premise, such as visitors, customers, vendors, contractors and subcontractors, have additional safety concerns.
OSHA Safety Guidelines to Prevent Workplace Slip and Fall Accidents
OSHA determines guidelines governing the conditions of floors, stairs and other walking and working surfaces; and requires employers to:
- Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
- Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition.
- Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
- Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.
Fall Protection Required of Employers
Falls are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. Employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls.
OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.
To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:
- Guard every floor hole and elevated open sided platform, floor or runway into which a worker can accidentally walk.
- Provide other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs, including safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.
To reduce chance of slip and fall injuries on walking surfaces, employers must:
- Use slip resistant material on floors.
- Not wax or polish floors.
- Keep aisles and passageways clear and well lit.
- Keep floors clear and clean (no splinters, holes, loose boards and protruding nails).
- Ensure that carpet or carpet tile is firm, securely attached and in good repair.
- Provide continuous handrails on both sides of stairs.
- Remove snow from outside walking surfaces and provide adequate drainage to prevent rainwater and ice accumulation.
- Maintain friction on outdoor walking surfaces to be slip resistant at all times.
- Provide sufficient lighting, both indoors and outdoors.
What to Do If Your Workplace is Unsafe
If you believe that your employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards, you may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect your workplace. Employees can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or by printing the online complaint form at www.osha.gov and mailing or faxing it to their local OSHA area office. Written complaints that are signed by workers or their representative and submitted to an OSHA Area or Regional office are more likely to result in onsite OSHA inspections.