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Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention in Healthcare Facilities

By: Lori Berdahl, OTR/L, Ergonomics and Loss Control Specialist with RAS

Slips, trips, and falls are no laughing matter. In most healthcare facilities, falls are the second leading cause of workplace injury and the primary cause of lost work days.

An average person takes 8,000 steps/day and the hard-working healthcare professional is likely taking many more. Exposure to slips, trips, and falls comes with every step and diligence is needed to stay safe and on our feet.

Inadequate footwear causes 24% of falls (National Floor Safety Institute NFSI)

  • Smooth, plastic, or leather soles act like slippery snow skis on wet or slick surfaces.
  • Soft rubber soles indented with deep treads or channels are best for wicking moisture to the sides and leaving many contact points with the ground – just like your car tires!
  • Wearing shoes with good grip is important both inside and outside, and is critical during winter months.
  • Overshoes with cleats, spikes, or coils are available at sporting goods stores and increase traction on snow and slush. Wear them in parking lots, but take them off when you reach the door as they are not safe inside.
  • ▪  Wipe feet well when coming in from wet conditions. Wet shoes make flooring very slippery.
  • Open-toe shoes such as sandals and flip-flops create a trip hazard as they can catch on stair nosings, cords, mats, or changes in elevation.
  • Loose fitting shoes such as Crocs or clogs should be avoided by healthcare professionals needing to respond quickly. These shoes slide or fall off of feet too easily when rushing.

Walking surface problems cause 55% of falls (NFSI)

  • Objects or changes in step height as small as a ¼ inch creates a trip hazard per the NFSI.
  • Objects or changes in step height of a ½ inch or greater can limit access and mobility per the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Report hazards such as uneven walkways, buckled carpet, raised thresholds, dented or chipped tiles, curled or lumpy mats, damaged steps, and cracked or chipped concrete.
  • Also, report slippery surfaces, pooling water, poor drainage, loose tiles, and inadequate lighting.
  • Clean spills immediately. If you must leave the area to retrieve cleaning supplies, leave a sign or a buddy near the spill to warn others.
  • Bundle cords and Velcro or tape them to the floor, or suspend them under desks/beds.

Unsafe behavior and inattention is a common contributor to slips, trips, and falls

  • Slow down, and “walk like a penguin” across indoor and outdoor wet or slippery surfaces – take short steps, keep your stance wide, step with flat feet, and keep your hands out of your pockets.
  • When entering or exiting a car, use the door for support until your footing is sure.  Keeping a container of sand in your car can also be helpful for sprinkling near the door and in front of you as you walk.
  • Use walkways that have been salted and shoveled. Avoid taking shortcuts over snow piles or landscaping.
  • Don’t disregard caution and wet floor signs.
  • Avoid carrying items in front of you; don’t block your view of the path.
  • Use handrails on stairways.
  • Use ladders or step-stools properly; do not stand on chairs/stools.
  • Pay attention to where you are going – watch for hazards in your path.
  • Don’t text and walk!

Falls can injure multiple body parts at once, and can result in serious injuries including fractures, dislocations, and concussions. Making good footwear choices, using caution near hazards, and simply paying attention can help keep you on your feet!