Slips, trips, and falls remain the bane of Ontario workplaces and a Ministry of Labour (MOL) priority. Why? Check the numbers: almost 12,000 lost time injury claims are filed annually, or 32 claims per day, at a direct benefit claim cost to employers of more than $73 million.
How can employers get a better handle on these injuries and costs as the MOL embarks on this year's slips, trips and falls blitz, from October 2 to November 24? WSPS consultant Patricia Kriz offers suggestions, as well as thoughts on why workplaces may be blind to hazards in plain sight.
2016 blitz results: what inspectors were looking for
Last year, MOL inspectors visited 1,254 workplaces, checking to see whether employers had
- policies and programs to protect workers from slips, trips and falls,
- implemented safe housekeeping procedures,
- developed safe work practices, which were being followed,
- assessed ladders, mobile stands, and platforms for risks,
- trained workers on how to prevent injuries and deaths from falls,
- looked at ergonomic factors, such as carrying objects that obstruct views and might lead to slips, trips, and falls.
By the end of the blitz, MOL inspectors had issued 4,416 orders, including 162 stop work orders.
Opening our eyes to hazards
"I think we've identified the big hazards when it comes to slips, trips and falls - falling from a ladder or platform, working near an unguarded edge, icy and slippery surfaces - and they have become obvious to us," says Patricia. "As a result, we may have become complacent about less obvious hazards." Patricia points to these three areas:
- Housekeeping. "Sometimes we miss hazards that may be right in front of us because we're looking elsewhere. In a retail setting, for instance, clothing and hangers may slip from the racks. In industry, there may be a waste pile of material cutoffs waiting for recycle. But both of these are trip hazards. Our inventory could be the actual hazard if it's not being stored properly or put away." Patricia's advice: "When identifying hazards, think like an inspector and consider everything in the work environment."
- Infrequent tasks. "Quick-fix" repair work and maintenance can pop up anytime, says Patricia, but for these small fixes there may be no written procedures on how to deal with them. "For instance, workers may need to get on top of machinery or equipment, which is slippery or uneven, and put themselves at risk of slipping and falling. Or a worker using a portable ladder to access a light fixture or dust at height may overreach and tip the ladder." Patricia's advice: "Step back a minute and look at all the what-ifs."
- Ladders. Most falls are from heights of less than three metres, says Patricia, and ladders are frequently a factor. "Do we actually need to use the ladder or is there another way to do the task at ground level? Or is there a safer way of accessing the work at height, such as a rolling ladder, scaffold or aerial platform?" Patricia's advice: "Make sure you are using the right equipment for the job."
How WSPS can help
- Check out our slip, trip and fall resource page, where you can learn about and access
- a 2-hour on-site awareness session on slips, trips, and falls
- free downloads, including guidelines, an infographic poster, articles, and more
- Check out our fall prevention training in multiple topics and formats, including e-course, and classroom and onsite training.
- Speak to our on-duty consultant about how we can help you develop a slips, trips, and falls prevention program: 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).