While seemingly harmless, slips, trips and falls are some of the most common hazards that we face in the workplace, and they can have some serious consequences. Most fall hazards overlooked because they aren’t taken seriously or workers aren’t sure what to say. We’ve all been in a situation where our coworkers are doing something risky and we weren’t sure how to handle it. The National Safety Council* outlines the following three scenarios and tips on how to handle each conversation:
Scenario # 1 – You and a coworker are taking the stairs. Your coworker’s arms are full of tools, coffee, and a cell phone. They kindly refuse your offer to help carry a few items but then struggle up the stairs.
Though many of us use them every day, a trip or fall down the stairs can cause serious injuries. Handrails exist for a reason so always keep a hand free when taking the stairs and encourage those around you to use them as well.
Open drink containers like coffee mugs can easily cause spills that then create fall hazards. Remind your coworkers to always use containers with a lid to avoid spills.
We often refuse assistance even when we could use it. If your coworker has their arms full, insist on carrying a few items so you can both get up the stairs safely.
Scenario #2 – You’re walking with a few coworkers when one of them gets a text message from their spouse. They look down at their phone and attempt to text back as you all walk through a busy worksite.
Distracted walking is a serious risk and can turn something as simple as a box into a major hazard. In this instance, consider stopping and telling your coworker you’ll wait with them while they finish sending their message.
You can also be more direct, telling your coworker it is unsafe and pointing out hazards they might trip over. We can sometimes be defensive in these situations, so frame the conversation around your coworker’s safety and encourage them to finish the text message once they’re sitting in the break room.
Scenario #3 – You notice a coworker’s desk or workstation is particularly messy, with items spilling out into the hallway. They are focused on a task and don’t seem to notice the mess.
Whether it’s an open filing cabinet drawer, some scattered papers on the floor, or just an extra pair of shoes sticking out where people walk, these are hazards that are easily cleaned up but can cause serious injuries if left unchecked.
We can be sensitive about our belongings, so this is another situation where it pays to avoid blame or shame. You can simply point out the hazard and offer to clean it up with your coworker.
If the problem persists, try being more direct and pointing out the risk it creates. In the workplace, these types of falls on the same level injured 142,770 people – and killed 151 – in 2017.
At Portacool, we have covered several hazards that may result in slips, trips, and falls in our weekly safety emails. When you mend the problem at the root, you can avoid hazards that lead to injuries and incidents.
Pedestrian Traffic – It’s important to keep traffic paths clear of obstructions and clutter both for pedestrians and vehicles. That can include anything from trash in the walkway to ice on the ground during dangerous weather. We have set out clear guides for both pedestrians and vehicles, including forklifts and cars alike, and make sure to keep communication open if there is a risk of slipping or falling.
Cell Phone Usage – There is a time and place for cell phones, and it is not during the work shift. We encourage our employees to put their cell phones away to ensure their safety and focus as well as guarantee that we provide the highest quality products.
Water – Water from water coolers or misters can be more than just a nuisance. If your workplace uses misters, it could be an issue. We utilize our own portable evaporative coolers to keep employees cool, which don’t mist. We also try to remain diligent and encourage employees to clean any spill they may see, whether it’s water or the electrolyte drink we provide.
Trash – At Portacool, we have implemented a Clean Space Initiative that empowers employees to pick up their areas. This not only gives them ownership over their environment, but it also protects them from potential fall hazards.
When you see a risk with a simple fix, don’t hesitate to fix it. Sometimes that means cleaning up a mess you didn’t create or having an awkward conversation, but the end result is worth it.