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STF Hazards in Workplace Environments

A chef working in a hotel kitchen in UK was walking past a fryer when he sustained third degree burns as he slipped and accidentally dunked his arm into hot oil. He also suffered burns to his face as a result of the oil splashing onto him. The employee at the time was wearing steel toe-capped boots. The company had conducted a STF (slip, trip, fall) risk assessment of the walking surface and concluded that the floor condition along with its resistance to STF was poor and needed attention. There was also the problem of water on the floor (due to leaks and improper use of dishwasher) before and after the accident. The issue was never properly addressed.
STF Hazards in Workplace Environments
A precision equipment manufacturing company relocated into a new office with linoleum floors when slip, trip, and fall accidents increased among employees. After contacting the cleaning supplier, the health and safety advisor found that the cleaning lady was not using the cleaning agent recommended by the supplier and instead used a regular washing liquid that caused a number of slip, trip, and fall accidents.
Slip, trip, fall hazards or STF hazards are frequent in workplaces, but the exact causes vary in different workplace environments. What is a one-time hazard in one type of workplace might be a regular STF hazard in the other. For example, chemicals spilled on the floor may be an occasional STF hazard in a school, but in a testing laboratory, this can be a regular STF hazard.
STF hazards in healthcare settings:

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that for the year 2009, the incidence rate of injuries resulting in lost workdays from slips, trips, and falls on the same level in hospitals was 38.2 per 10,000 employees. This figure is ninety percent greater than the average rate for all other private industries put together.

Patient falls is one of the most frequent occurences reported in hospitals. Patients with minor or major injuries can have trouble keeping their balance while walking; medication also has an influence on walking among patients who might feel dizzy and unattentive to things around them. Moreover, continuous cleaning of floors, transfer of food and chemicals also adds to the risk of medical personnel, patients, and visitors slipping, tripping, and falling in hospitals.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the STF hazards in healthcare facilities in its guide for Slip Trip, and Fall Prevention for Healthcare Workers. Some of the hazards typical to hospitals and other healthcare settings include:

Contaminants:These include fluids such as water, oil, grease, fluid, and food, spillage of which can cause the walking surface to become slippery. Places where these hazards come up include food service areas (cafeteria, kitchen, sinks, drains, ice machines, freezers); decontamination areas (when wet equipment from one area is transferred to another); drinking fountains; and soap dispensers.

Temporary and/or permanent obstructions: Wheelchairs, stretchers in hallways and lobbies are common obstructions that cause cause trips and falls.

Poor drainage: Drains where liquids from kitchen and decontamination areas accumulate; down spouts that spill rainwater onto the sidewalk.

Indoor walking surface irregularities:Damaged or uneven flooring inside hospitals and healthcare facilities can cause people to stumble and fall. Places where such hazards exist include entrances, patient rooms, operating rooms, hallways, floor mats, and unmarked ramps.

Falls from beds: The height of occupied patient beds are oftentimes overlooked as potential STF hazards. Sometimes, the control panel for the adjustable bed frame may be out of reach of the patient lying on the bed. This could result in the patient falling from the bed.

Haste/Urgency: When dealing with emergencies, healthcare professionals can’t move slowly, which can put them at risk of slipping or tripping on an object and falling if they’re not paying attention.

STF hazards in retail and wholesale industries:
STF hazards in retail and wholesale industries
Wholesale and retail trade establishments include employees engaged in preparing, distributing, and selling merchandise, and services related to these activities. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), slips, trips, and falls are the third most common reason for lost workday injuries in wholesale and retail trade establishments. Employees in retail operations, especially in grocery stores, and meat processing and packing industries have a 75% greater than average incidence rate of STF injuries for all other private industries put together.

Slip, trip, and fall hazards typical to retail establishments include:
Slipping on wet surfaces: Floors being cleaned, food or liquid spillage can all lead to an employee or a customer slipping and falling.

Work tasks: Handling slippery or greasy materials can also reduce footwear traction and result in an STF.

Falling from ladders: Inventory and storage rooms usually have shelves and racks that can be accessed only with a ladder. In such a case, missing a step on the ladder or tripping on it can result in an employee falling.

Poor lighting: Employees in dimly lit or dark areas of a store or warehousecan trip on objects and shelves.

Obstruction in view: Carrying loads like boxes, containers,and shipments may at times obstruct the view of objects in the path and cause a trip and fall.

Misplaced products:A misplaced object can become an obstruction in the walking surface.

Occupational violence: Incidences like robbery and theft can put employees and customers out of their normal course of thought. Frightened and hurried steps away from the scene can cause somebody to slip, trip, and fall.

Fast work pace: Employees dealing with impatient customers and working during busy working hours or rush hours during holiday seasons may make haste and fall in a hurry.
STF hazards in restaurants:
STF hazards in restaurants
According to Liberty Mutual, the restaurant industry (which employs more than 6.5 percent of the nation’s workforce) is the most affected by STF injuries. Over 50,000 cases of disabling occupational injuries were reported in the restaurant industry in 2009 of which nearly a quarter were attributed to same-level slips, trips, and falls.

Slip, trip, and fall hazards typical to a restaurant include:
Slippery floors: Most injuries occur on a slippery floor. A floor surface may be slippery in nature or become slippery due to water or oil spills, contaminants, water, oil, grease, ice etc. Inadequate housekeeping - untimely and improper cleaning of floors leads to slip and fall accidents. Areas in restaurants with slippery floors include the dishwashing and cooking areas, cold storage, and freezers.

Blind corners:Employees may get struck by an object or person (and consequently fall) while moving past a blind corner. In such cases, it’s advisable to place convex mirrors at blind corners so that it is easy to see the oncoming traffic or objects placed in the area. Employees should also announce when they’re approaching a blind corner, especially when they’re carrying food or heavy objects.

Swinging doors: Swinging doors are a common feature in a commercial kitchen, and one of the most common causes of a fall.

Change in floor levels: While a change in floor level is something which can be found in any type of building, restaurants may have a change in the floor level for any one of several reasons - to feature a prop or a centerpiece (on a slightly raised platform), to provide access to another area of a multi-level restaurant, or enhance aesthetics (via landscaping in an outdoor restaurant). This change is a trip and fall hazard.

Pace: The restaurant industry is a fast-paced one, and safety policies are sometimes overlooked to focus on customer service, especially during rush hours.

Transition: Restaurant employees, servers and bussers in particular, are subject to fall hazards when they move from the kitchen to the dining area in a hurry. Among other things like contaminants, food debris, obstruction (people or object); change in floor surfaceswhen making the transition from one location to the other contributes to an employee slipping and falling.
STF in construction industry:

According to OSHA, falls were the most frequent causes of construction workers deaths for the calendar year 2011 (followed by electrocution and struck by an object). Falls contributed for 251 out of the total of 721 deaths in the construction industry (that’s 35 percent for CY 2011).

The construction industry presents a range of slip, trip, and fall risks because of its outdoor operations, working on heights and multiple levels, varying working conditions, and materials. Some of the STF hazards typical to a construction site include:

Obstruction/obstacles: Obstacles in the form of debris, tools and equipment, or trailing cords are obstructions and can cause a worker to trip and fall. Improper material handling and housekeeping are usually responsible for trip and fall accidents here.

Slippery surfaces: Slipping on grease, ice, snow, or oil is also one of the STF hazards typical to a construction site.

Inadequate lighting: Some areas may be more poorly lit than other locations in a construction site, which may impair a worker’s vision and ability to asses slip and trip risks around him/her.

Improper scaffolds: Construction workers have to spend a major part of their day working on different heights that require them to make use of scaffolds. Working on scaffolds can be dangerous especially when there is a chance of the scaffold collapsing.

Unsafe portable ladders: Ladders are an essential and inevitable tool at construction sites. Workers frequently climb up and down ladders to reach to multiple levels in the construction zone. Falling even just a few feet from a ladder can mean multiple disabling injuries.

Floor walls, edges, and openings: Unprotected roof edges or floor openings can prove to risk the life of a worker if he/she falls off or into them.

Incidence rate for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in the construction industry
  • Falls to lower level: 19.2
  • Falls on same level: 11.3
  • Slips or trips without fall: 6.2
Since the slip, trips and fall hazards are unique in different workplace settings, solutions and preventive measures to effectively tackle such hazards should be distinctive too.The Occupational Safety and Health Administration along with different organizations such as The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) recommend practices to prevent slips, trips, and falls at workplace. TheAmerican Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) also establishes certain standards to evaluate slip, trip, and fall incidents to help individuals or entities in developing their own safety program.

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