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Five-minute safety talk – Slips, trips and falls

Man slipping

By Maj Tom Sudsbear, General Safety Officer ADM(IM) – 

Most of us have been walking for the majority of our lives, but that doesn’t mean we are good at it.

Even being the experienced walkers that we are, how is it that simply putting one foot in front of the other to get from place to place results in so many injuries (both at work and at home)? OSHA states that about 35% of the majority of workplace accidents are caused by slips, trips and falls! Slips, trips and falls can cause severe injuries such as broken hands and arms, back injuries, strains to muscles and ligaments and even death.

Can you walk?

Though some injuries involve falls from ladders, buildings or other heights, the majority of injuries occur when we are just simply walking from one place to another.

  • 65% of all fall related injuries are from the “”same level”.
  • This includes people running into doors (or doors running into people).

(Please refer to the opening sentence)

SlipA slip is caused by the absence of sufficient friction between a person’s feet and his/her walking surface. Some common causes of slips are:

  • Hazards created from weather (e.g., puddles).
  • Surfaces that are wet or oily.
  • Loose rugs or mats.

TripA trip is a loss of balance that occurs when the forward or backward movement of one foot or both feet is interrupted. Common causes of tripping are:

  • Clutter on the floor (e.g., power cords, boxes).
  • Obstruction in the walkway.
  • Poor lighting or obstructed vision.
  • Uneven walking surfaces (e.g., carpeting, steps, thresholds).
  • Bottom filing cabinet drawers left open.

FALLA fall is the consequence of a slip. Falls happen when an irregular body movement disrupts balance. Falls are the most common office accident, usually due to loss of balance. Falls can occur from a height or on surfaces that are on the same level. A fall can be the result of a slip or a trip where your centre of gravity is shifted causing you to lose your balance.

Basic ways we can prevent slips, trips and falls

Housekeeping: Without good housekeeping practices, any other preventive measure such as installation of special flooring, appropriate footwear, or training in walking, will never be fully effective.

  • Remove obstacles from walkways and keep aisles free of clutter (boxes, briefcases, etc.).
  • Clean up all spills immediately.
  • Pick up loose items from the floor.
  • Always close file cabinet and storage drawers after use.
  • During your daily inspection, look for slip or trip hazards.

Footwear: Wear the proper footwear for your work and environment. Proper fitting footwear increase comfort, and prevents fatigue, which can improve safety.

  • Keep your footwear clean and in good condition at all times.
  • Inspect regularly for any damage and replace your shoes or soles before they become worn and/or smooth.

Stairs: Stairwells should be well lighted with sturdy hand rails on both sides. All steps should have the same rise and depth with visible edges. Steps must be free of obstacles and liquids which could cause slips and trips.

  • Persons using the stairs should have one hand free to use the handrail.
  • Never carry anything you can’t see around or over.
  • Carry smaller, lighter loads and make more trips, or obtain help with the load.

Behaviour: In addition to the above mentioned points, there are specific behaviours which can lead to slips, trips, and falls.

  • Walking too fast or running can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
  • Distractions (i.e. texting!).
  • Carrying objects which obstruct your view.


  • Walk carefully and slowly when you transition from one type of surface to another.
  • Slow down and take careful steps if the surface is uneven, cluttered, slippery or inclined.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings!

Look where you are walking – walk where you are looking!

This post is also available in: Français (French)

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