“Work around the farm may have seasonal peaks, but even when the push to finish fall work is over, there is always more to do,” says Kenda Lubeck, farm safety coordinator, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Grande Prairie. “Cleaning equipment, performing routine maintenance, and winterizing machines and buildings sometimes requires workers to maneuver around objects, varied and uneven footing, and often includes work from heights. This subjects workers to the hazards of slips, trips and falls.”
“Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface,” says Lubeck. “Common causes of slips are wet or oily surfaces, weather hazards, loose, unanchored rugs or mats and flooring or other surfaces that do not have the same degree of traction in all areas.”
Trips happen when a worker’s foot collides with an object causing a loss of balance and consequently a fall. Common causes of tripping are poor vision (obstructed view or poor lighting), clutter, uneven surfaces and ropes, hoses or cables lying uncovered and unsecured. Another common cause of trips may be worker fatigue or prior injury leading to restricted and tight muscles.
“Both slips and trips result from an unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground,” says Lubeck. “It’s important to keep work areas clutter-free, keep items in a consistent location to prevent unfamiliarity, select proper footwear with adequate tread, and maintain an appropriate pace when walking.”
Good housekeeping is the first and most important step in preventing falls due to slips and trips, says Lubeck.
Some things to consider are:
- Clean all indoor spills immediately. When indoor footing is slippery, be sure to mark the area.
- Mark all slick surfaces outside. When possible, move to higher ground to work in a dry area. If the footing is frozen or icy use a de-icing product such as salt to improve traction.
- Remove obstacles from walkways and always keep work areas free of clutter.
- Secure (by nailing, tacking, taping, etc.) mats, rugs, floor boards, and other work surfaces that do not lay flat.
- Cover and secure cables, ropes and hoses that are being used for any length of time.
- Ensure proper lighting in work areas. This includes replacing burnt out light bulbs and repairing faulty switches.
- Maintain all indoor flooring and highlight any changes in elevation such as steps or landings.
When working from heights, proper fall protection procedures must be used to protect workers from serious injury or death.
“It is also important to choose the proper footwear for the job,” says Lubeck. “Since there is no footwear with anti-slip properties for every condition, research such as consultation with the manufacturer is highly recommended. Properly fitting footwear increases comfort and prevents fatigue which in turn improves safety for the worker.”
Finally, workers should adjust their pace and stride for the footing conditions and take into consideration any personal factors such as stress or fatigue.
“Slips and trips are quite personal incidents; however, they can happen to anyone and are easily preventable,” adds Lubeck. “Be sure to identify potential hazards and take action to eliminate them.”