Tips shared for avoiding falling injuries

STATEWIDE – School is back in session, there is a chill in the air, and Coloradans are pulling their sweaters out of storage and preparing for the fall season. Pinnacol Assurance, Colorado’s leading workers’ compensation insurer, suggests that fall is the perfect time to talk about avoiding “falls” and is offering guidance to employers on fall prevention, the most common workers’ compensation injury cause in the state.

In 2017, work-related falls resulted in more than 7,800 workers’ compensation claims in Colorado and three people lost their lives. According to Pinnacol’s claims data, the most common slip and fall injuries are (in order of frequency):

Fall – same level

Fall – ice or snow

Fall or slip – from a different level

Fall – on stairs

Fall or slip - from ladder or scaffolding

Fall or slip - from liquid or grease

Slip (no fall) - “I almost fell but caught myself”

Fall – into openings

“Falling is so prevalent because it’s a hazard all of us are exposed to regardless of industry. It can happen at any time of day, and it’s not necessarily obvious to us,” said Jim McMillen, Pinnacol’s director of safety services. “The injuries we see resulting from falls run the gamut from common strains and sprains, severe bruises and contusions, broken bones, head injuries, and multiple complex physical injuries. Even falling from a height of just a couple feet can result in significant injury.”

From a regulatory standpoint, OSHA requires fall protection for anyone working more than four feet off the ground in general industry, and six feet in construction, according to McMillen. He said generally speaking, the higher up a person is, the more severe the accident. “Falls from height are two to three times more expensive than the average ‘slip and fall’ claim,” he said.

It’s probably no surprise that most of slip and fall accidents occur in December, January and February, so getting the word out now and continuing to talk about prevention over the winter is critical.

There are simple things to avoid the unexpected falls, including:

Tidy your path: Be on the lookout for cords, mats or carpet not lying flat. Cords should be removed if possible; if not, covered or taped in place. Clean up liquid spills immediately.

Pick the right footwear: Good shoes are your best friend. Make sure they are stable, fit well, have good tread, and are slip resistant. High heels are not safe shoes.

Keep your focus: Look up and get off your smartphone. It can wait. Look at your path, even if it’s familiar, and watch where you’re stepping.

Conquer the stairs: Going up (or down) is good for your health (as long as you do it safely). Keep stairs well lit, free from debris or spills, always use the handrail and don’t rush.

Don’t improvise: Need to get something stored up high? Use a step stool or ladder instead of climbing on things like chairs and boxes.

Adjust for weather: Slippery sidewalks cause a lot of falls every year in Colorado. Take small steps and “walk like a penguin” if you suspect ice or slippery surfaces are in your path (if its winter, they probably are).

Lastly, lots of people fall down at work each year and, sometimes, it can’t be avoided. If you DO fall, follow these tips from AARP to minimize injury.