STFs: Taking a toll on your employees and your bottom line

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 2, 2016 12:50:54 PM / by Deborah Lechner

Ever wondered what slips, trips and falls injuries are costing employers annually? Billions of dollars. $17.92 billion to be exact. That is the amount of direct workers’ compensation costs related to slips, trips and falls (STFs) injuries in the U.S. according to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index of the top ten disabling workplace injuries that are nonfatal.

It is not just your bottom line affected by STFs, it is ultimately your people, your employees that you put time and money into hiring and cultivating.

To help you and your business, we have created a new eBook: Slips, Trips, and Falls: A Heavy Toll on Your Workers and Your Bottom Line. There is great benefit to both your workforce and your business to becoming better educated on how to reduce your risk, what slips, trips and falls are, and how you can work to prevent these types of injuries.

How to Reduce Your Risk

Because STFs injuries account for roughly one-third of the top ten injury causes, awareness is a good place to start.

In our Anatomy of Slips, Trips and Falls blog post, we noted the industries that experience a higher incidence of STF’s: construction, food services, healthcare, highway maintenance, housekeeping and telecommunications. While there are workspaces that will inherently see higher numbers of these injuries, the reality is that slips, trips and falls can occur in any workplace – from the most physically-demanding environments all the way to a quiet, cubicle-filled office.

About Slips, Trips and Falls

The Liberty Mutual report shows that the highest incidence of STF-related injuries involves same-level falls, which can be caused by slipping on a wet surface, tripping over an object or a misstep caused by an uneven surface. A same-level fall can result in lower back strains and hand, wrist or ankle sprains.

The second most type of STF-related injuries are falls to a lower level, which occur less frequently but often have more severe injuries. These often occur when someone falls from a piece of equipment, a loading dock or even down a stairway. Fractures, head injuries, spinal cord injuries and even death can be the result of a serious fall to a lower level.

Did you know balance has a major role in whether or not a slip, trip or a fall will occur? Our eBook goes into great detail explaining the part balance plays in STFs. Understanding balance and its effect on the body can help in understanding the most important takeaway: prevention.

Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

There are two types of causes of STFs: extrinsic and intrinsic. The extrinsic is the environmental, while the intrinsic is the worker-related element that also plays a role.

To lessen the chances of STFs injuries occurring organizations need to address both the intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  To address the intrinsic, start by identifying and addressing the environmental risks hazards that exist.

Slip hazards:

  • Spills
  • Low-friction flooring
  • Freshly-waxed or polished floors

Trip hazards:

  • Obstructions in walkways
  • Rugs, mats & similar objects
  • Uneven surfaces

Tips on addressing these slip and trip hazards can be found in our eBook.

But, even if you clean your floors and secure the rugs, falls will continue at a higher than desired rate if the intrinsic aspects of falls are not addressed.

And some extrinsic issues cannot always be addressed – for example, slippery surfaces are part of the job in the housekeeping industry and uneven terrain is a hazard for those who work outside – utility workers for example.

Reducing the intrinsic risks of STFs injury in the workplace can start with something as simple as implementing a pre-hire Physical Abilities Test (PAT) program. How does this help? A validated PAT can result in a workforce that is less likely to be injured on the job. In fact, one study finds new hires who passed PAT had a 47 percent lower rate of workers’ compensation injuries.

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From obesity, to medications, previous injuries and even poor posture, there are many physical factors that can -increase the risk of an STFs injury. How can these factors be addressed? Safety policies, job-specific training and job-appropriate safety equipment to start. We provide greater detail into how physical factors can lead to an STFs injury in the workplace and how to reduce those chances, all in our new eBook: Slips, Trips, and Falls: A Heavy Toll on Your Workers and Your Bottom Line.

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Topics: Workplace Safety, Ergonomics, Slips, Trips, Falls

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.