Slips, Trips and Falls

Each year slips, trips and falls result in thousands of preventable injuries. The most common ones are musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures and dislocations, but more serious injuries can also happen.

Over the 12 years between 2003–15, slips, trips or falls:

  • caused the death of 386 workers
  • led to 23% of serious claims
  • were caused by environmental factors* 56% of the time.

Environmental factors can include slippery surfaces following rain or spills, poorly designed or maintained walkways, poor lighting on stairs and walkways and trip hazards for example from poorly stored materials.

Slips, trips and falls: a definition

  • Slips occur when your foot loses traction with the ground surface due to inappropriate footwear or walking on slippery floor surfaces that are highly polished, wet or greasy.
  • Trips occur when you catch your foot on an object or surface. In most cases people trip on low obstacles that are hard to spot such as uneven edges in flooring, loose mats, open drawers, untidy tools or electrical cables.
  • Falls can result from a slip or trip but many occur during falls from low heights such as steps, stairs and curbs, falling into a hole or a ditch or into water.

Types of injuries

Table 1: Most common injury locations

Body area Injury numbers % of all slips, trips and falls
Knee 4,930 20.7%
Ankle 3,985 16.7%
Back—upper or lower 3,000 12.6%

Managing risk

Companies must manage health and safety risks associated with slips, trips and falls by eliminating the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. If that is not possible, you must minimise risks so far as is reasonably practicable.

Tips for eliminating hazards

You should consider the design of floors, stairs, lighting, drainage and storage.

Work procedures can also impact on the incidence of slips and trips. For example, develop procedures that avoid the build-up of rubbish throughout a production process.

When selecting and buying footwear, think about whether it has good slip resistance properties along with any other safety features you need. For example:

  • In wet conditions the shoe sole tread pattern should be deep enough to help penetrate the surface water and make direct contact with the floor.
  • In dry conditions the shoe sole tread pattern should be a flat bottom construction that grips the floor with maximum contact area.
  • Urethane and rubber soles are more effective than vinyl and leather soles for slip resistance. Sole materials that have tiny cell like features will be slip resistant.

A risk analysis and strong policy around what is acceptable footwear for the job being performed will help prevent slips, trips and falls.


Excessive Sitting in the Workplace

Sedentary work: a definition

Sedentary behaviour is defined as anything you do while you are sitting or reclining.

  • Examples of common sedentary behaviours for workers include computer-based tasks, truck driving or operating a crane.

There is no clear definition of excessive occupational sitting exposure. However, sitting for longer than 30 minutes without a mini-break and sitting all day at work (being ‘too busy’ to take a break) are likely to be detrimental to your health.

Prolonged sitting is associated with a range of health problems including:

  • musculoskeletal disorders
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • poor mental health
  • some cancers
  • premature death.

The negative health effects from prolonged sitting are due to:

  • insufficient movement and muscle activity
  • low energy expenditure
  • not moving enough
  • not changing posture enough.

Workplace health and safety issue

We have identified too much sitting as a potential WHS issue based on:

  • a rapidly growing body of scientific evidence on the potential harms and increasing public awareness of these
  • a high proportion of workers with exposure to sitting
  • recent recognition by various national and international authorities of sedentary behaviour as a health concern
  • emerging evidence of effective and feasible risk controls.

Excessive sitting

Sedentary exposure is akin to sun exposure: a little can be helpful but too much can damage your health. More than seven hours overall sedentary behaviour per day is likely to be detrimental to health and therefore considered excessive.

Ways to reduce occupational sitting

When it comes to addressing occupational sitting exposure, your mantra should be ‘reduce and interrupt’.

Examples of interventions

Examples of substituting sitting with non-sedentary tasks include:

  • switching to work on a computer at a standing workstation
  • standing to read a document
  • having a standing or walking meeting
  • standing while talking on the phone
  • walking to deliver a message to a colleague rather than emailing.

Two things to remember:

  • A worker can be physically active and meet the guidelines of at least 2.5–5 hours of moderate intensity or ‘huff and puff’ physical activity per week, and still spend much of their time being sedentary.
  • Health problems caused by prolonged sitting remain even if you exercise vigorously every day, highlighting the fact that excessive sitting and physical inactivity are separate health hazards.

Fatigue in the workplace

Impacts of fatigue in the workplace

Fatigue in the workplace doesn’t only impact on workers’ mental and physical health, it can also impact on the health and safety of those around them.

Fatigue can result in a lack of alertness, slower reactions to signals or situations, and affect a worker’s ability to make good decisions. This can increase the risk of incidents and injury in a workplace, particularly when:

  • operating fixed or mobile high risk plant
  • driving a road vehicle, such as a taxi or courier van
  • working at heights
  • taking part in medical or surgical procedures and settings
  • working with flammable or explosive substances
  • hazardous work, for example electrical work.

Managing fatigue in the workplace

Everyone in the workplace has a work health and safety duty and can help to ensure fatigue doesn’t create a risk to health and safety at work.

Examples of identifying factors that may cause fatigue in the workplace include:

  • consulting workers—managers, supervisors and health and safety representatives—about the impact of workloads and work schedules, including work-related travel and work outside normal hours
  • examining work practices, systems of work and worker records, for example sign in-out sheets
  • reviewing workplace incident data and human resource data.

Examples of control measures for fatigue risks that could be considered include:

  • work scheduling
  • shift work and rosters
  • job demands
  • environmental conditions
  • non-work related factors
  • workplace fatigue policy.

Providing information and training to workers about the factors that can contribute to fatigue and the risks associated with it will help them to not only do their job, but also implement control measures to minimise the risk of fatigue in the workplace.

Training about fatigue and relevant workplace policies should be arranged so it is available to all workers on all shifts.

Once control measures are implemented, they should be monitored and reviewed to make sure they remain effective. Consider implementing trial periods for any new work schedules and encouraging workers to provide feedback on their effectiveness.


Workplace Injuries and Tips for Prevention

What is the most common injuries for Tradies?

Back pain is the most common injury experienced by tradies, as it is the part of the body involved in almost all the tasks that tradies undertake at work. Other common injuries for tradies include:

  • shoulder issues related to repetitive reaching and holding actions with the arms
  • knee injuries related to repetitive bending to the ground
  • ankle sprains related to working on uneven ground.

 

What steps can I take to avoid back pain?

  • work smart – use good positions, good techniques and use the equipment available where possible to reduce strain on your back
  • correct back position for lifting means maintaining the natural curves of the spine, especially a small arch in the lower back, keeping a wide base of support, and keeping the load close to your body
  • ask for help with heavy lifting where required
  • engage in regular risk assessments to ensure the design of the task is as friendly to the back as possible
  • stay fit, flexible and strong enough to do your job.

 

How do I reduce my risk of getting injured at work?

Most injuries to tradies occur as a result of ignoring pain and niggles, rushing at work, improvising with tools or equipment or being distracted by everyday tasks. Tradies can follow a few simple steps to help reduce the chance of injury:

  • take a few minutes when you are about to start a job to think it through. Ask yourself: Is this the best way? Am I using the correct tools for the job? Do I need any help? Is it safe to proceed? If you answer yes to all these questions, get to it. If not, then change something until it is safe to finish the job
  • be mindful of what else is going on in your life and how it can influence your work. Many tradies get hand injuries when their mind is not completely on the job. We all know the dangers of not paying attention while driving—the same goes when swinging a hammer or using a rattle gun.
  • seek advice from your physiotherapist as soon as you feel a niggle. The earlier you see a physiotherapist for even the smallest injury, the quicker it will get better and the less chance your work will be impacted. Your physiotherapist can also give advice on how to prevent it happening in the future

Many tradies have to complete jobs that require either repetitive bending or awkward positions, so flexibility is really important to trades people. Improving flexibility requires regular stretching. Here are some great ones to try:

  • standing hamstring stretch
  • piriformis stretch
  • pec stretch - to reduce the tightness when working on items in front of you all day
  • forearm stretch or massage – to reduce the risk of injury from gripping tools all day.

Dental Health

As a Tradie it’s important to look after your physical wellbeing, but looking after your dental health is just as important.

These are 3 things you can do this Tradie National Health Month to keep your dental health in check.

  • Sugary Food and Drinks
    • Frequent bursts of sugar are one of the main contributors to tooth decay. Check for hidden sugars in fizzy drinks and foods and swap these with healthier options.

 

  • Dry Mouth
    • Did you know the saliva in your mouth protects your teeth? Prolonged periods of having dry mouth increases your risk of tooth decay and wear. Stay hydrated by drinking water regularly.

 

  • Regular Dental Check
    • Regular check ups with a dentist can help with early detection of any dental concerns and keep your teeth healthy.