What Are the Most Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents?

According to general liability claims, slip and fall accidents account for over 61% of total incurred losses in general liability claims—more than any other type of accident.  The total cost of these claims has reached over $52.9 billion in total.   According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), over 2.2 million Americans were rushed to the emergency room for slip and falls in 2007 alone.

It is a business responsibility to know the causes of these accidents and how they could be prevented from happening.  Apart from the financial costs attributed to these accidents, there are other tangible losses such as: employee absenteeism (amounting to more than 31 days on average), employees’ safety and security, and other long-term sustained injury.  For these reasons, slip and fall accidents are a growing concern for anyone who owns a business, manages a facility, or otherwise welcomes guests onto their property.

Causes for Slips and Falls on the Same Level

According to CNA Risk Control team, slip and fall accidents can be caused by several factors including:

• Lack of slip resistance on walking surfaces

• Improper floor maintenance procedures

• Poor walking surface conditions

• Poor visibility

• Lack or poor condition of handrails and guardrails

• Poor stairway design

• Improper walkway transitions

• Distractions, such as displays and advertisements

• Poor housekeeping, such as cluttered walkways and poor material storage

In short, people slip on surfaces because the coefficient of friction between a person’s shoes and the walking surface is under 0.50.  A lower COF means that the floor is unable to support an individual’s weight as they walk across the floor.  Environment plays a very important role in the mechanics of these accidents.  Improperly maintained floors and smooth shoe soles do not create an ideal walking surface. During winter months and rainy days, the risks are even higher due to the addition of snow, ice, and moisture.  It is important that floors must be cleaned and maintained regularly to provide ultimate traction between shoe soles and these hard surfaces.

Minimize the Risks of Slip and Fall Accidents

According to the CNA study, there are several cost-effective ways in which facilities managers can reduce slip and fall accidents.  While it may not be possible to completely remove the risk of accidental slip and fall, the recurrence of incidents can be effectively managed by implementing the following:

1. Select the Right Type of Flooring Material:  Choose a material that is not too slippery.  If the floor is selected for more aesthetic reasons, instead of pragmatic ones, coat the floor with anti-slip floor treatment to reduce accidents. Alternatively, Rubber Scraper Mats so pedestrians may “squeegee” their shoes dry prior to traversing the space.

2. Properly Install Commercial Mats Within the Facility:  Install entrance mats in all major entry ways at least 10-15 feet in size.  Having a mat in place will reduce the amount of dirt and moisture tracked into the building. Entrance mats are not only effective during rainy days, but also during summer days when debris could be tracked inside, creating a dangerous environment without anyone noticing.

3. Invest in Commercial Mats for All aspects of the Workplace.  Place anti-fatigue mats where employees spend long hours standing and performing repetitive work.  Additionally, use anti-slip mats in garages and loading docks.  Statistics show that truck drivers are more likely to slip and fall than be in a vehicular accident.

4. Keep Up with Regular Maintenance and Cleaning: Be vigilant and aware of the maintenance of permanently installed fixtures in the facility.  Make sure that floor mats are cleaned when they are saturated with dirt.   Be prepared to have replacement floor mat available for rotation when a mat is unavailable due to cleaning.

5. Improve Lighting Wherever Possible: All aspects of the facility must be properly lit at all times.  According the study conducted by the CNA, most accidents happen because people are not able to see properly the dangers surrounding them.

Lastly, awareness is the key to preventing slip and fall accidents.  Proper dissemination of information raises awareness on how to handle building maintenance and minimizes the recurrence of accidents anywhere. By empowering specific employees to report and clean debris, property owners and business managers may more effectively keep facilities clean while also limiting their exposure to claims of negligence and liability.

Resources for this report include:

Bakken, Gary M., Cohen, H. Harvey, Abele, Jon R., Hyde, Alvin S., LaRue, Cindy A. Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences. Tucson, AZ: Lawyers and Judges Publishing Company, Inc., 2nd ed. 2002

Fraley, Michael. Be Proactive In Slip and Fall Prevention. Cleaning & Maintenance Management. September 19, 2010. http://cmmonline.com/articles/be-proactive-in-slip-and-prevention/. Accessed December 13, 2012

Garner, Bryan A. Black’s Law Dictionary. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/ West, 8th ed. 2004.

WISQARSTM (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html

Fall Prevention Facts. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00101

Fall accident prevention program. National Floor Safety Institute. Produced as part of the NFSI Best Practices Project, 2003.

Kendzior, Russell J. Falls Aren’t Funny. Government Institutes, The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2010.

New Techniques to Control Slips and Falls in Public Places. InControl/SLIPS, TRIPS, & FALLS for the Real Estate Industry. Courtesy of the National Floor Safety Institute. 2011