Employees in Healthcare: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

Employee injuries from slipping, tripping and/or falling in the hospital, homecare, long-term care or other healthcare setting are the second most frequent type of employee injury for most healthcare providers. They are usually preventable and avoidable if strong loss prevention measures are followed on a regular basis.
There are many exposures in the healthcare environment that may lead to the healthcare worker having an injury from a slip, trip or fall. Hazards may exist due to:

  • Slippery or wet floors
  • Uneven floor or outside ground/sidewalk/parking lot surfaces
  • Lifting in confined spaces
  • Cluttered or obstructed work areas/passageways
  • Poorly maintained walkways or broken equipment
  • Inadequate lighting

The source of slips, trips and falls is one of the easiest injury categories to isolate and prevent reoccurrence. A review of current OSHA logs and/or incident reports can provide valuable information as to where in the facility most falls are occurring. This serves as a starting point when evaluating for any needed controls. The five basic areas that must be evaluated for any successful prevention program are floor surface exposures (such as use of wet floor signs, skid resistant rugs, etc.), non-surface exposures (such as secure handrails, lighting, and clutter), footwear (whether you are wearing proper slip resistant shoes), balance (vision, conditioning and medication can influence balance) and employee behaviors (potentially unsafe actions).
Most injuries, including slips, trips and falls, are a result of “unsafe actions” not “unsafe conditions.” It is important that both employees and management be accountable regarding elimination of unsafe behaviors in the workplace. Some key behavioral focus areas are as follows:

  • Do not participate in behaviors that may lead to injury, including horseplay.
  • We are all responsible for reporting and correcting slip, trip and fall hazards.
  • Do not take unsafe shortcuts.
  • We are all responsible for cleaning up spilled liquids and/or reporting them immediately.

If a resident or patient falls during the resident/patient-transfer process make sure “how to fall with the patient safely” if the fall is inevitable. key to preventing slips, trips and falls in the healthcare industry is to evaluate five areas – floor surface exposures, non-surface exposures, footwear, balance and employee behaviors. Successful control the hazards associated with these exposures will result in a safer work atmosphere, decreased injury frequency and decreased severity reduction.