Your Holiday Guide to Preventing On-the-Job Injuries
'Tis the season of snow, ice, and workplace injuries. Winter can be a dangerous time, especially for sales representatives who are out and about for the majority of the day. Slips, trips, and falls are the second most common reason for employees to file worker's compensation claims--exceeded only by traffic accidents.
Besides the obvious benefit of preventing pain and injuries to your employees, having a good program in place to reduce injuries can save your company tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as helping you keep full headcount and avoid lost production. You want to make sure those sales representatives are pounding the pavement, not the other way around.
Be sure to remind your sales representatives to report even a minor fall. Create a culture where such reports are valued and taken seriously. Reporting a minor accident could easily prevent someone from experiencing a more serious injury down the line, and is part of maintaining an ongoing environment of safety and awareness.
There are many situations that may cause slips, trips, and falls, such as ice, wet spots, grease, polished floors, loose flooring or carpeting, uneven walking surfaces, clutter, electrical cords, open desk drawers and filing cabinets. Loose, irregular surfaces such as gravel, shifting floor tiles, and uneven sidewalks, can make it difficult to maintain your footing. Most slip, trip and fall incidents are preventable with general precautions and safety measures. At this precarious time of year, you should make sure your sales managers devote a bit of time during each sales meeting to giving their sales teams winter safety tips.
Be sure your managers cover the following major causes of winter injuries:
Wet or Slippery Surfaces
Wet or slippery surfaces are a major cause of slips. Highly polished floors such as marble, terrazzo, or ceramic tile can be extremely slippery even when dry, and it definitely increases the potential for a slip when moisture (spills, rain, snow and mud) is present.
If you must walk on a slippery surface:
- Wear proper footwear for better traction on slippery surfaces
- Point your feet slightly outward, keeping your center of balance under you
- Take slow, small steps
- Use your feet as probes to detect possible slip, trip and fall hazards
- Get your feet underneath your body quickly to maintain your balance after an initial step
- Use rails or other stable objects that you can hold onto
- Protect the more vulnerable parts of your body like your head, neck and spine if you do fall
- When moving from carpet to tile or dry tile to wet tile, etc. the friction (grip) between the sole of the shoe and the floor surface lessens. Alter your stride to take shorter, slower steps.
No matter how well the snow and ice are removed from sidewalks, parking lots and the surrounding streets, people will invariably encounter some slippery surfaces when walking outdoors in the winter. Many cold-weather injuries are the result of falls on ice-covered streets and sidewalks. Walking on snow or ice is especially treacherous. Getting around in icy conditions calls for planning, caution, and a little common sense.
- Dress warmly and wear boots with non-skid soles (avoid plastic and leather soles).
- Keep warm, but make sure you can hear what's going on around you. Wear a bright scarf or hat or reflective gear so drivers can see you, and whatever you wear, make sure it doesn't block your vision or make it hard for you to hear traffic.
- A heavy backpack or other load can challenge your sense of balance. Try not to carry too much--you need to leave your hands and arms free to better balance yourself.
- During the daytime, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards. At night, wear bright clothing or reflective gear. Dark clothing will make it difficult for motorists to see you--especially if they aren't expecting you.
- When entering a building, remove as much snow and water from your boots as possible. Take notice that floors and stairs may be wet and slippery. Walk carefully.
- Be prepared to fall and try to avoid using your arms to break your fall. If you fall backward, make a conscious effort to tuck your chin so your head doesn't strike the ground with a full force.
- Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles--use the vehicle for support.
- Streets and sidewalks that have been cleared of snow and ice should still be approached with caution. Look out for "black ice." Dew, fog or water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces and form an extra-thin, nearly invisible layer of ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement. It often shows up early in the morning or in areas that are shaded from the sun.
Changes in Elevation
Changes in elevation are a major source of trip accidents. Even a change in walking surface of ¼ – ½” or greater can be sufficient to cause a trip. Curbs, cracks in the sidewalk, ramps and single steps are all examples of these hazards.
Watch for bumps, potholes, sidewalk cracks or changes in elevation.
Climbing or Descending Stairways
Nearly half of all falls occur on stairs. To prevent an accident, awareness and prevention is key. Whether going up or down stairs, always use the handrail.
The chance of fall accidents in stairways increases with inattention, illness, fatigue and haste. Take care when ascending and descending stairways.
By making safety training a regular part of your sales training meetings, especially in the winter, you can keep your employees safe, reduce injury-related absences, and save your company money on worker's compensation claims. Let's make this a safe and injury-free winter!