Tom and Betsy, parents of a long-time employee, visit The Very Best Company to see their daughter’s office and take her out to a birthday lunch. The pair don’t even reach the reception desk before Betsy trips on a mat in the doorway and falls. 

“This is a situation that happens very frequently,” explains Mickey McHenry, President, Paul Davis of South Atlanta. “Slips, trips and falls – or STFs – account for more than eight million emergency visits annually. In fact, they are the most common reason people go to the emergency room! They’re big liabilities for your company, too: the top cause of lost workdays, the biggest outlay under worker’s compensation and the most significant source of occupational injuries for older adults.” 

It’s worth identifying SFT hazards in your workplace and fixing them, McHenry urges. To help identify typical risks, let’s follow Ellen and Roy, two visitors who have arrived to see their son’s office and take him to lunch to celebrate a promotion. They will encounter – and successfully avoid – six typical STF hazards at The Very Best Company. As they stroll, we’ll reflect on each hazard’s specific risk profile. 

As they proceed through the main entrance, they step over an old mat that has curled with age. Flooring problems are the top source of workplace STFs and they may include: changes in floor height from area to area, elevated thresholds, uneven staircases, mats without beveled edges that are easily dislodged or have curled with age and fraying/loose carpet. 

Three steps lead from the reception area to the main office floor but the staircase lacks a railing. Ellen and Roy nevertheless climb the stairs without stumbling. Railings, even for very short sets of stairs, provide vital stability over uneven surfaces. Further, they provide visual cues to be careful in this location and use provided safety aids.

As they walk past cubicles, Ellen points out a box in the aisle and an extension cord across the walkway that they step over. Debris, stored items and office equipment in walkways are major STF causes. They are so risky partly because they are new features in the “mental maps” people rely on to navigate familiar spaces. Ellen and Tom are less likely to trip over these obstacles because they are more carefully traversing territory that is new to them.

As they leave the reception area, they step over a wet patch that has been tracked in because it’s raining outside. Fortunately, they detect the wet spot even though the hazard lacks signage that cautions pedestrians and several lightbulbs in the entryway are burned out. This location combines three hazards to create a major STF risk: poor lighting, no sign alerting pedestrians to a temporary unsafe condition, and a slick floor. Lack of maintenance and poor weather are two major causes of workplace STFs.

Paul Davis recommends that all businesses survey their properties for STFs both inside and out to help avoid pain, expense, liability and inconvenience. “Here’s one more notable cause of STFs: incorrect footwear,” McHenry adds. “That’s a factor we often can’t control, however, making other safety measures even more important!”