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More Like This The Problem In , over one million people suffered a slip, trip or falling injury, and over 17, Americans died as a result. Of the estimated 3. About 5, workers died from a fall in Add to these the personal and family costs and trauma, and it is evident that slips, trips and falls should be avoided. A thorough analysis of falls in Florida agriculture was conducted in , based on an analysis of Workers' Compensation records. Falls accounted for nearly 25 percent of all serious disabling work injuries: Elevated falls accounted for 26 percent of the injuries in fruit and vegetable production occupations. Same-level falls accounted for 12 percent in both livestock and horticultural production occupations. In addition, 32 percent of all elevated falls in Florida agriculture were from ladders, while 25 percent were from vehicles and other mobile equipment. Same-level falls were on walking or working surfaces in 76 percent of the incidents. The back was the most frequently injured part of the body in falls: The joints -- wrist, elbow and shoulder, or the ankle, knee and hip -- accounted for 32 percent of elevated falls and 47 percent of same-level falls. Most injuries are sprains and strains: Fractures are the result of 19 percent of elevated falls and 10 percent of same-level falls. Bruises and contusions account for most of the remaining injuries. Types of Falls Falls are of two basic types: Same-level falls are most frequent, but elevated falls are more severe. Injury results when the individual hits a walking or working surface or strikes some other object during the fall. Over 60 percent of elevated falls are from less than 10 feet. Same-Level Falls Examples of same-level falls are described below. Slip and Fall Slips are primarily caused by a slippery surface and compounded by wearing the wrong footwear. In normal walking, two types of slips occur. The first of these occurs as the heel of the forward foot contacts the walking surface. Then, the front foot slips forward, and the person falls backward. The second type of fall occurs when the rear foot slips backward. The force to move forward is on the sole of the rear foot. As the rear heal is lifted and the force moves forward to the front of the sole, the foot slips back and the person falls. The force that allows you to walk without slipping is commonly referred to as "traction. Technically, traction is measured as the "coefficient of friction. The coefficient of friction depends on two things: To prevent slips and falls, a high coefficient of friction COF between the shoe and walking surface is needed Figure 1. On icy, wet, and oily surfaces, the COF can be as low as 0. A COF of 0. To put these figures in perspective, a brushed concrete surface and a rubber heel will often show a COF greater than 1. Leather soles on a wet smooth surface, such as ceramic tile or ice, may have a COF as low as 0. Shoes with soft rubber soles and heels with rubber cleats provide a high coefficient of friction COF. Providing dry walking and working surfaces and slip-resistant footwear is the answer to slips and their resultant falls and injuries. Obviously, high heels, with minimal heel-to-surface contact, taps on heels, and shoes with leather or other hard, smooth-surfaced soles lead to slips, falls, and injuries. Shoes with rubber-cleated, soft soles and heels provide a high COF and are recommended for most agricultural work. In work areas where the walking and working surface is likely to be slippery, non-skid strips or floor coatings should be used. Since a COF of 0. If the working surface is very slippery, no footwear will provide a safe COF. Trip and Fall Trips occur when the front foot strikes an object and is suddenly stopped. The upper body is then thrown forward, and a fall occurs. The same thing can happen going up a flight of stairs: Step and Fall Another type of working and walking surface fall is the "step and fall. In this type of fall, the person normally falls forward. A second type of step and fall occurs when one steps forward or down, and either the inside or outside of the foot lands on an object higher than the other side. The ankle turns, and one tends to fall forward and sideways. Contributing Factors Proper housekeeping in work and walking areas can contribute to safety and the prevention of falls. Not only is it important to maintain a safe working environment and walking surface, these areas must also be kept free of obstacles which can cause slips and trips. One method which promotes good housekeeping in work environments is the painting of yellow lines to identify working and walking areas. These areas should never be obstructed by objects of any kind. Adequate lighting to ensure proper vision is also important in the prevention of slips and falls. Moving from light to dark areas, or vice versa, can cause temporary vision problems that might be just enough to cause a person to slip on an oil spill or trip over a misplaced object. Carrying an oversized object can also obstruct one's vision and result in a slip or a trip. This is a particularly serious problem on stairs. Behaviors that Lead to Falls In addition to wearing the wrong footwear, there are specific behaviors which can lead to slips, trips, and falls. Walking too fast or running can cause major problems. In normal walking, the most force is exerted when the heel strikes the ground, but in fast walking or running, one lands harder on the heel of the front foot and pushes harder off the sole of the rear foot; thus, a greater COF is required to prevent slips and falls. Rapid changes in direction create a similar problem. Other problems that can lead to slips, trips and falls are: These and other behaviors, caused by lack of knowledge, impatience, or bad habits developed from past experiences, can lead to falls, injuries, or even death. Elevated Falls Generally, elevated falls are less frequent but more severe than same-level falls in the workplace. In Florida agriculture, 17 percent of all serious injuries are from elevated levels and eight percent are from same-level falls. Falls from ladders while harvesting oranges and grapefruit are the major cause of elevated falls in Florida agriculture, but there are also significant numbers of falls from vehicles and equipment, loading docks, buildings and other structures. Falls from Ladders Ladders may be fixed or portable. They may be straight- extension- or step-ladders and may be manufactured from wood, metal, plastic, or fiberglass. They can be light-, medium-, heavy-, or extra-heavy-duty. They can be two feet high step-stools , 18 feet for extra-heavy-duty step-ladders, and 40 feet or longer for extension-type ladders. The materials from which ladders are constructed have advantages and disadvantages in weight, durability, flexibility, conductivity, and strength. The intended use of the ladder should determine the type purchased, and only American National Standards Institute ANSI approved ladders should be used. One major caution is that metal ladders should never be used in locations in which the ladder or its user could come into contact with electricity. A ladder should be long enough so that when it rests against the upper support the user can work with waist no higher than the top rung of the ladder or above the rung at which the siderails are resting against the upper support. This means that the top three rungs of a straight ladder, or the top two steps of a step-ladder, should never be used for the feet. The lower ends of the siderails should be equipped with slip-resistant pads, particularly if the ladder is to be used on hard surfaces. The same is true for the upper ends of the siderails if they are to rest against a surface. Ladders should be set at, or as near, a 4: That is, for each three or four feet of rise from the base to the upper resting edge of the ladder, the base should be one foot out from a vertical line from the upper resting edge of the ladder to the working surface. As an example, if a ladder is leaning against a ledge that 20 feet off the ground, the base of the ladder should be five feet back from the Preventing Injuries from Slips, Trips, and Falls 4 wall. The base of the ladder must be firmly set so that there is no possibility of slippage or settling into soft ground. The resting edge of the ladder should have both siderails in contact with the object building or tree it is against. When setting a ladder against a tree, set the ladder in the crotch of two limbs so that it cannot slide in either direction. Whenever there is any question as to the stability of the ladder, additional effort should be made to stabilize the ladder as it is being climbed. Tying the top of the ladder to the supporting structure can also keep the ladder from slipping or sliding. Ladders should be inspected before use: Never paint ladders, as the paint can hide potentially dangerous conditions. Wooden ladders can be coated with linseed oil or an oil-based wood preservative to keep them from drying out and cracking. Allow ladders to dry thoroughly before using them or the rungs will be slippery. The rungs and siderails of ladders must be kept free of oil, grease, and mud; they should be kept dry. Since the shoe has limited contact with the rung or step of a ladder, it is very important that both rungs and shoes have a high COF. Only shoes with heels should be worn when climbing ladders; users should be taught that the rung or step of the ladder should be just in front of the heel, under the arch of the foot. Stepping or standing on a ladder with the front part of the shoe is inviting a slip and fall. Always face the ladder when climbing or descending. Another frequent cause of ladder-related injuries is attempting to reach too far left or right. When working on a ladder, the person's belt buckle should never extend beyond the siderails. Reaching further can cause the ladder to slide in the opposite direction. Tying the ladder to the structure supporting it can prevent this and is a recommended practice. Workers should have both hands free to hold the ladder's siderails, not the rungs, when climbing or descending.
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