Working in construction can prove to be hazardous. Construction workers are often required to work in relatively high-risk environments. However, with a few simple steps, these risks can be greatly diminished. At Stronghold Engineering, Inc., the safety of its employees is a top priority. They understand that they are only as good as their employees. The company takes safety seriously, which is why it is one of the core values of Stronghold, in addition to quality, teamwork, integrity and commitment. In this article, we will be exploring some of the options for reducing injuries at work caused by slips, trips, and falls. Such injuries are commonplace and pose a risk. However, they can take a fatal turn. The Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted research and found that slips, trips, and falls are the reason for 700 fatalities every year and an even higher number of injuries.
Three physical factors can be blamed for these accidents: gravity, momentum, and friction. Gravity is the force that pulls objects towards the Earth. Momentum is the mass and speed of an object. While friction is the resistance between two objects. In addition to physical factors, these accidents usually happen due to poor safety practices, weather conditions, and lack of training amongst other factors. Though preventing these accidents can seem like an impossible task, ensuring that these accidents do not occur greatly boosts the morale of employees.
As a starting point, we'll refer to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guide on preventing slips, trips, and falls. OSHA was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, as introduced by the United States Department of Labour. It was enacted to ensure safe working conditions. The act achieves that by ensuring certain minimum standards and best practices, which includes education, training, assistance, and outreach programs.
The OSHA provides regulations on avoiding slips, trips, and falls. Before proceeding with how to avoid these accidents from happening, we must go through the definitions of slips, trips, and falls.
Slips: When there is low friction between your feet and the surface you're stepping on, it can cause you to lose balance. Low friction surfaces are the leading cause of slips. They can be caused for a variety of reasons, including wet or uneven surfaces, snow, mud, or ice. If you are hurrying to a place, not paying attention to where you are going, or wearing the wrong kind of shoe, you risk slipping.
Trips: These occur when you bump into something, and you are momentum is enough to throw you off balance. These are caused when you are in a rush, insufficient lighting, inattentive to where you are going, or loose debris.
Falls: Falls are likely to occur when someone moves away from their center of balance. Of these three hazards, falls cause the most deaths.
Avoiding Slips, Trips, and Falls
The first step towards avoiding accidents from any of these hazards is to train your employees. Stronghold Engineering emphasizes safety training from the very first day of someone joining the company. These training sessions are a big part of the company's safety culture. Though there is no formal training requirement, Stronghold employees are trained to spot and avoid unsafe working conditions.
Some ways you can train your employees is by including information in the employee handbook, Injury and Illness Prevention Program or toolbox safety talks on how to avoid slips, trips, and falls. Training sessions can be organised where you go through OSHA 1910.22 Walking/Working Surfaces, elaborating on employee expectations for avoiding accidents. Inform your employees about the right kind of footwear, one that is well-suited for the kind of work they do. It is a great idea to have company programs for reimbursement on work shoe purchases. Additionally, OSHA recommends eliminating clutter, protruding objects, and wet surfaces.
Reducing Low Friction Surfaces
Low friction surfaces are a menace around the workspace. They can include wet surfaces due to leaking water or other liquids or surfaces that are muddy. If you have smooth surfaces, such as wooden flooring, and you place a rug on it, then ensure that there is a non-slip pad underneath the rug. Low friction surfaces can be found everywhere.
Outside surfaces can be greatly affected by changing weather conditions. They can be wet due to rain or covered in snow or ice. To eliminate accidents in harsh weather conditions, ensure that the parking lots are in a good state of repair. If the surface is covered with snow or ice, treat it with salt, or if the situation is too extreme, close access to them completely. Wherever possible, it is recommended that you use anti-skid paint or anti-slip materials.
As for indoors, all entry points to your building should have moisture-absorbent mats. Not only would this limit water entering your building, but also stop tracking mud in. These mats need to have anti-slip pads underneath. Wherever there are a need, use 'Wet Floor' signs. You would be surprised how many injuries can be avoided just by cautioning people. Spills need to be cleaned immediately.
If your employees cannot see where they are going, they are being exposed to the risk of injury. All docking areas, construction sites, basements, hallways, ramps, and staircases should be properly illuminated. Employees should be instructed to always turn on the light before entering a dark room, which is why switches should be placed close to doors. If there is a malfunction with the switches or cords, immediately repair them.
Removing Unnecessary Obstacles
Obstacles are the number one cause for people tripping. Proper housekeeping is one of the easiest ways of ensuring that pathways, corridors, and entrances are free from the clutter that may cause injuries. All work areas should always remain clean. If there are cables and cords, they need to be stored away safely.
Proper housekeeping practices are integral to avoiding accidents. If the company does not establish these practices, then there is a higher likelihood of their employees being injured. Clean and well-maintained places are a strong indicator of a good safety culture. It is also important that these practices carry on, which is why it is essential to establish a routine. The first step to implementing proper housekeeping practices is planning. Identify what needs to be done. Then assign responsibilities. And lastly, ensure that this plan is complied with at all times.
Safety at Stronghold
Stronghold Engineering has made a reputation for itself as one of the safest places to work at. The company frequently completes projects with zero onsite accidents. For its commitment to safety, it was awarded the Construction Safety Excellence Award in 2020 by AGC.