Slips, Trips and Falls, oh my!
Christine Jones, CIC, ACSR
Alvarado Pacific Insurance Services
Did you know that Slips and Falls are a major cause of injury to residents and their visitors? It is estimated that approximately 25,000 slip and fall accidents occur daily in the USA and one in five emergency room visits is the result of a fall. Businesses with considerable foot traffic are of particular concern.
Falls can occur on any surface and can be on level ground, ramps or stairways. Major hazards are slippery surfaces, holes or broken surfaces, poor drainage or inadequate cleanup of spills, mud, ice or water. Personal factors such as age, illness, emotional state, fatigue, inattention and poor vision also contribute to falls. There are various things a property owner can do to reduce exposure:
Proper choices of flooring materials, use of special finishes, mats, tapes, grooving, texturing and keeping the floor clean and dry can prevent slips and falls. Do not wax, polish or treat floors in any way that may compromise their slip resistance.
Walkways and hallways-
Walkways and hallways should be wide enough to allow tenants and guests to move freely and allow for safe passing. Repair tears in carpeting and keep walkways free of obstructions. Areas should be well maintained and well lit.
Stairs and Ramps –
Accidents on stairs account for approximately 800,000 injuries annually. Steps should be readily seen with treads that are large enough to provide adequate footing. Handrails should be reachable, graspable and located on both sides of the stairs. (Small children should be considered here) Check guardrail openings. To prevent entrapment, openings should be 4 inches or less. Ensure stairs have uniform riser heights and tread depths. Visual distractions on or near stairs should be eliminated. Again, any loose carpeting or treads should be repaired immediately. Regular housekeeping and inspections should be done regularly and stairs should always be kept clean and dry.
Frequently check the condition of sidewalks. Rough finished concrete provides good slip resistance, even when wet. Area should be level with no ridges or height changes greater than ¼ to ½ inches. There should be no holes large enough for a shoe heel to fit into. Do not paint or treat sidewalks.
Proper lighting of all walking areas may help prevent slips, trips and falls. General lighting includes natural sunlight, general overhead lighting and task lighting. Adequate lighting can detect and prevent hazards.
Much like sidewalks, parking lots are vulnerable to changes in weather conditions. Adequate drainage to prevent water accumulation will decrease the chances of accidents. Sufficient lighting is a must. Be aware of any holes, uneven surfaces, drop offs, cracks, etc. If your property has speed bumps in the parking lot be sure they are painted yellow or a similar high contrast color but be sure to use a non-slippery paint.
Inspect all sidewalks, walkways and stairways at least monthly. Any deficiencies observed should be discussed with management. More frequent inspections should be done during inclement weather. Floor maintenance and housekeeping procedures should be standardized and written. Be sure to use "Wet Floor" warning signs and block off areas until floor cleaning is finished and dry. Absorbent mats placed and door entrances are also helpful in avoiding unwanted accidents.