Preventing Slips, Trips, & Falls

Did you know that slips, trips, and falls make up a majority of general industry accidents (including churches) according to the U.S. Department of Labor?

STFs are some of the most common injuries on church campuses; they’re also some of the easiest to prevent. If you’ve never heard of an STF, it’s not shorthand for Saint Francis; it’s the acronym OSHA uses for slips, trips, and falls.

Slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere. They can, sadly, result in disability and death. If that isn’t bad enough, the cost to your ministry could be substantial should an STF happen on your campus. A church with an employee or volunteer that has experienced an STF will more than likely see increased insurance premiums, a loss in productivity, and increased cost related to training a temporary replacement worker.

The personal cost to the injured person could be magnitudes worse: they may suffer from lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses, pain, temporary or permanent disability, and a reduced quality of life (including possible depression). In a worst-case-scenario death may occur.

The good news is that most STFs can be prevented. Read on to find out more about what causes STFs on a church campus and what you can do about them.

What Causes Slips, Trips, and Falls on a Church Campus?

Did you know slips, trips, and falls are the cause of 15 percent of all accidental deaths? They’re the second leading cause behind motor vehicles and account for around 12,000 deaths a year. In fact, STFs are the most frequently-reported workplace injuries, making up around 25 percent of reported insurance claims per year. More than 17 percent of all disabling occupational injuries result from falls.

The most common STF injury types are sprains and strains, bruises, contusions, fractures, abrasions, and lacerations. The most frequently injured parts of the body are the knees, ankles, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, feet, back and head.

When it comes to slips, eagle-eyed church maintenance and safety and security teams will want to watch for the following common risks on their church campus and in parking lots:

  • Wet substances or spills on smooth floors or walking surfaces; including water, mud, grease, oil, food, and blood

  • Dry products or spills that can make walking surfaces slippery. These can include heavy dust, powders, granules, wood debris, plastic wrapping

  • Highly-polished floors which can be slick when dry. These can include concrete, marble, or ceramic tiles. Also watch out for freshly waxed surfaces

  • Transition areas from one surface to another, for example carpet to vinyl

  • Sloped walking surfaces

  • Loose, unanchored rugs

  • Loose floorboards or shifting tiles

  • Ramps without skid- or slip-resistant surfaces

  • Metal surfaces, such as sidewalk and road covers

  • Climbing ladders

  • Loose, irregular surfaces such as gravel

  • Sloped, uneven, or muddy terrain

  • Weather hazards

  • Leaves and other plant debris (wet or dry)

  • Wondering about preventing trips? Church campus and ministry teams should watch for these common tripping hazards on campus and in parking lots:

  • Uncovered hoses, cables, wires, or extension cords across hallways, aisles, or walkways

  • Clutter or other obstacles in aisles, walkways, and work areas

  • Open cabinet doors and file/desk drawers

  • Changes in elevation or levels, such as unmarked steps or ramps

  • Wrinkled or rolled up carpets/mats or carpets with curled edges

  • Irregularities in walking surfaces such as thresholds or gaps

  • Missing or uneven floor tiles and bricks

  • Damaged steps

  • Non-uniform, improper or irregular steps such as those that are too tall or too short, those that have shallower tread depth, and those that have unique irregularities

  • Debris and accumulated waste materials

  • Trailing cables, pallets, and unattended tools

  • Objects protruding from walking surfaces

  • Uneven surfaces

  • Sidewalk & curb drops

  • Speed bumps

  • Tire bumpers

  • Wheelchair ramps and curbs

  • Driveways

These are some of the most common factors in slips and trips that result in falls. Actively watching for them and immediately responding to them should help cut down on your ministry’s risk.

How to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls on a Church Campus

You can help prevent slips, trips, and falls on your church campus by enforcing safe work processes and good design of workplace. Here are a few things to check off your list:

  • Install adequate safety and directional signage

  • Implement good housekeeping. Make sure your staff maintains clear, tidy work areas that are free of clutter

  • Use appropriate cleaning methods and products

  • Follow safe walking practices and designate safe travel routes

  • Install and maintain proper indoor and outdoor lighting to reduce glare and shadows

  • Instruct volunteers and staff to wear proper footwear with good traction

  • Invite a certified workplace safety professional to teach maintenance staff on how to fall “properly” to minimize fall injuries

  • Contain maintenance and food worker processes to prevent discharge, splatter, or spillage of liquids, oils, particles, dusts debris onto floors.

  • Implement containment systems that include local exhaust ventilation, extraction or collection systems, enclosures, work surfaces with raised or lipped edges, catch/drip pans, and drain-offs

  • Use drip trays to contain leaks of lubricant onto floor from vehicles or outdoor machinery.

  • Perform regularly scheduled maintenance on machinery

  • Install adequate ventilation to avoid smoke, steam, and condensation of water and grease on floors, ceilings, and walls

  • Provide adequate lighting to keep work areas, aisles, and paths of travel well lit

  • Mark and highlight step edges and transition areas (changes in elevations) and use anti-skid paint, slip-resistant coatings, and strips

  • Make sure stairs have sufficient lighting and hand rails

  • Provide effective drainage, false floors, or work platforms

  • Install slip-resistant floors in high risk areas

  • Advise workers and volunteers to use proper personal protection equipment (PPE), including appropriate footwear

  • Avoid areas with excess noise and temperature

  • Instruct volunteers and staff not to move cumbersome objects by themselves and to avoid carrying too many objects at one time

  • Pay attention to surroundings and avoid walking distracted

  • Slow down. Being in a hurry and rushing can lead to accidents

These preventative tips can help your ministry reduce the risk of an accident on campus, which will help it remain distraction-free and effective as you work to further the Kingdom and serve your communities.

Have questions about slips, trips, and falls on your church campus? We’re here to serve. Just drop us a line and we’ll reach out to help.

Does your church have a risk-management team that focuses on STFs? Has it helped your ministry avoid accidents and stay effective?

Let us know about your experiences with slips, trips, and falls on Twitter or Facebook. You can also share this with a friend by clicking the share button.

We’re always ready to have a conversation on how we can all work together to tackle injury prevention on church and school campuses.

* Source: OSHA & USDoL

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