A Simple Slip and Fall

A man slipping and falling down the stairs.

As the winter ice finally disappears, we can finally move on to other safety hazards - no more slipping and falling on ice!  That’s certainly a good thing, but the sad truth is that slip, trip, and fall injuries can happen at any time, in any season, at any locale.  I’ve seen a few reminders of this in the last few days.

Turns out that an old acquaintance of mine from my Navy days is now a 2-star admiral.  Seems he’s been a lot more successful than I was!  He is a very tall athletic pilot who has commanded organizations all over the country and the world.  The interesting, and certainly equal parts tragic and inspiring, is that he now leads from a wheelchair.  Admiral Kyle Cozad is now paralyzed from the waist down from a slip and fall incident in his kitchen.  Hard to believe that such a “simple fall” could result in such a life-changing injury.  But it sure is a reminder of how precious our health is and how quickly it can be so dramatically altered.  Check out Kyle’s story in this edition of the Navy Times.

On an even more personal level, I nearly took a header down my own basement stairs a few weeks ago.  Another “simple fall” that could have been disastrous.  As I turned from the doorway to enter the staircase I missed a step and started the nose dive.  Here’s where years of safety experience actually saved me.  I had my right hand on the handrail and was able to stop my fall.  Not until I was on my knees, facing down the steps, with very sore shins mind you.  But as I think about it I was very close to becoming one of those statistics… another person dies falling down the steps at home.

So what does all this mean to you in the workplace?  I’m hoping that the lesson is pretty clear to you at this point.  People are not invincible and serious injuries occur from the most mundane of incidents.  Taking a few minutes to talk with your employees about slip, trip, and fall prevention could actually save a life.  I know that sometimes this sounds like “common sense,” but I also know that there is no such thing as “common sense.”  We have to engage in best practices and hazard assessments so that our fellow workers don’t suffer preventable injuries.  So think about taking the following steps… yes, pun intended.

  • Lead by example. Use the handrail on stairways, wear the right footwear, and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Train employees about fall protection requirements and do site inspections looking for tripping hazards, damaged railings, or poorly lighted steps and walkways.
  • Replace missing floor tiles, bunched up carpets, and other irregularities that are just lying in wait.Clean up all spills quickly and use “Wet Floor” signs.
  • Develop a comprehensive safety plan that includes fall prevention strategies, responsibilities, and accountability.

As I wrap up this edition of the Safety Net I realize that the Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing and that falling on ice is still a hazard.  Just ask Gavin DeGraw how he feels after his unfortunate face plant on the ice after singing the National Anthem at the recent Predators-Stars game.  Fortunately, his pride was the only injury but it sure could have been painful in many other ways.  Take care out there and check out the MEMIC resources on fall prevention.  Remember, gravity is not our friend. 

By Randy Klatt