Same-level falls are the second leading preventable workplace injury event in the United States. There are a number of reasons these injuries are so commonplace in many types of facilities.
What Are Same-Level Falls?
Same-level falls are when a person falls on one or more surfaces at the same level rather than from an elevated point. These types of falls may take place when the following occur:
- Impact between an injured worker and a source of injury without any elevation.
- Motion of the injured worker caused by gravity after losing balance.
- The movement of the injured worker causes the injury.
- The source of the injury and point of contact with it was at or above the level of the surface supporting the injured worker.
Many people have sustained same-level fall injuries in recent years. In 2018, 147,390 workers were injured and 154 died as a result of falls from the same level.
Preventing Same-Level Slip and Fall Injuries
Same-level falls can occur in nearly any facility if certain hazards are present. To prevent these injuries from taking place, it’s important to properly identify and address any safety risks that could cause slip and falls and subsequent injuries.
There are several ways businesses can mitigate the risk of same-level falls. Taking these steps will create a safer workplace for employees and others in a facility.
Checking Walkways for Hazards
One of the best ways to prevent same-level slip and fall incidents is to conduct a walkway audit. This audit will consist of an examination of walking surfaces to determine which may cause slip and fall injuries. In more formal audits, walkway auditors rely on tribometers to gauge the Coefficient of Friction (COF) of various walkways. In the process, auditors can decide on the best methods for increasing COF to reduce the risk of same-level falls.
If formal audits aren’t available, businesses can conduct their own using a facility’s floor plans, including details about indoor and outdoor areas. Other tools to use include a camera, a ruler, and a way to take notes either electronically or manually.
Looking at Transition Areas
It’s also important to check transition areas for same-level fall hazards. These areas include any locations where there’s a change in walking surfaces. For example, a transition area may consist of an asphalt surface, which transitions to a concrete sidewalk, or a metal warehouse mezzanine to an epoxy-coated floor in an adjacent room. Oftentimes, entrances feature transition areas as surfaces change from outdoors to indoors or from room to room.
In some cases, the transition between surfaces may be more likely to cause same-level falls if people walking on those surfaces are distracted or if other hazards are in place. Poor lighting may render workers unable to see properly as they walk from one surface to another, which could prevent them from adjusting before slipping and falling. Even if a facility uses mats to prevent slip and falls at entrances, businesses should replace these mats if they endure enough wear and tear to minimize their effectiveness.
Changes in weather are frequent contributors to same-level falls in transition areas, particularly if conditions are wet or snowy. During days when snow or rain is present, it’s best to conduct an audit of transition areas to determine how hazardous they are. Surfaces like tile and stone may not pose a risk when dry, but slippery conditions could lead to slip and falls.
Mitigating Outdoor Risks
Many outdoor areas are responsible for same-level falls. Certain hazardous conditions may include potholes, cracks, or parking blocks that people may not see, causing them to lose their footing. Other outdoor hazards may include sidewalks that sit at varying levels or tripping hazards such as fallen tree branches and broken pieces of concrete.
Some landscaping features may also put workers at risk. Bushes and low-hanging tree limbs that extend into walkways may trip people. Regularly performing landscaping tasks and removing debris from walkways can help reduce the risk of same-level falls. Other steps to take in these areas include measuring walkways to ensure they’re even, making sure sufficient lighting is present to illuminate walkways in darkness, and removing any snow or ice from sidewalks, common areas, parking lots, and building entrances.
Removing snow and ice before employees arrive at work or before they leave, depending on when these hazards are present, can reduce the risk of slip and fall injuries.
Knowing what to look for and how to properly eliminate the risks associated with same-level fall work injuries can help prevent this type of workplace injury. As a result, business owners and managers can help maintain a significantly safer workspace for employees.