Slips, trips and falls are top of mind right now with Falls Awareness Week coming up May 6-10. It’s part of a Ministry of Labour initiative
that includes focused inspections running from April 15 until July 12.
Why the attention? “Falls occur in every sector and represent roughly 25% of all WSIB claims. A significant number are critical injuries,” says WSPS Duty Consultant Gord Leffley. “The largest portion are falls on the same level, but falls from heights are close behind.”
Falls Awareness Week is the perfect time to remind workers about slip, trip and fall hazards and prevention in your workplace. One way to do this is to hold a safety talk. To be effective, says Gord, workplaces need to keep their safety talk “short, prescriptive, real, and specific.” Here are seven tips to hold a successful safety talk:
- Plan ahead. Supervisors are in the best position to deliver safety talks: they know the workers, understand the hazards and the law and recognize what needs to be done to prevent falls. Pre-planning will help ensure the safety talk is impactful.
- Review hazards. Prepare for your safety talk by reviewing your risks and performance, including hazard and near miss reports. “Often a fall on the same level does not create a lost-time injury or require a formal investigation,” says Gord. Nevertheless, “today’s near miss could be tomorrow’s lost time.”
- Identify your message. “You can’t just talk about people falling. Instead, have a clear, prescriptive preventive message,” says Gord. “Give them something they can take away.” If falls from heights are the biggest risk, focus your safety talk on the proper use of a fall arrest system. For same level falls, your message might be, “Check the soles on your safety shoes to make sure they are not worn out.”
- Make it relevant. Tying your message to a previous incident at your workplace is one way to grab workers’ attention. “They know the person, the circumstances and the hazards, so they will make a connection between the incident and your message.”
- Decide where, when and how long. “Are you going to deliver an information piece or are you going to take people down on the floor and show them: ‘This is what the hazard is; this is how we deal with it; this is what you do to protect yourself.’” Gord says there’s no right or wrong way to hold a safety talk, but short talks (15 minutes) are ideal. To minimize productivity and scheduling challenges, hold talks right after lunch or break time when everyone’s together.
- Make it interactive. Use hands-on exercises, such as a workplace walk-around. Ask questions using workplace examples. For instance, “Where are you most likely to fall at work? What absorbents do we use to clean up spills, and where are they located? Do you have trip hazards in your work area?” Let employees talk about their experiences and encourage suggestions.
- Follow up. Check whether people remember the key points of your talk. “Observe workplace performance,” says Gord. “If you see somebody slip and fall but not hurt themselves, remind them about what was covered in the safety talk.”
How WSPS can help