Are Slips, Trips and Falls a Problem For Your Venue?
Do slips, trips and falls represent the majority of incidents and injuries reported in your venue? If not, you are either:
- Diligent; or
From our experience slips, trips and falls represent somewhere between 40%-60% of all injuries and safety incidents for most public venues and events. From research into the Sydney Olympics, 41% of all incidents recorded by SOCOG were slip or trip related with almost half of those requiring medical treatment beyond an initial first aid at the venue.
But this injury category is not limited to public venues and patrons are not the only ones affected.
Frequency and Seriousness
The frequency and seriousness of injuries sustained through slips, trips and falls by employees is also well documented. In 2001 European workplace safety experts noted that inadvertent slipping was responsible for 12% of working accidents in France and 5% of serious accidents for people more than 60 years of age.
In 2004, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety in the US reported slips, trips and falls as the second highest cause of workplace injury costing the US economy approximately US$5.7 billion annually.
According to Workcover in NSW, during 1999-2000 slips, trips and falls represented approximately 20% of all reported non-work-related injuries. In 2006 the UK's national Workcover equivalent, the Health and Safety Executive reported that slips and trips represented 50% of injuries that affect the public, 33% of all major workplaces and 20% of injuries requiring more than three days off work.
The serious nature of some slip and fall injuries would suggest that this is an area venue managers should always take an interest in. In NSW in 2004/2005 total direct costs resulting from slip, trip and fall related workers compensation data was approximately $110 million. The average cost per W/C claim was about $18,900.
Research from the Sydney Games estimated a total cost of slip and falls for 206 temporary and permanent injuries was approximately AUS $3.4m across the Games period.
Are Slips, Trips and Falls Preventable?
So if you are thinking that people are inherently clumsy and will slip and trip regardless of what you do.........think again. Slips, trips and falls experts claim that many people consider slips and trips as non-preventable incidents and thus give them little risk management attention. In a 2000 study, the CSIRO found that 86% of all slip and trip-related public liability claims were indeed preventable.
If the causes of slips and trips are treated as system failures, then identifying such failures and investigating root causes of slip and trips incidents can improve the effectiveness of pre-event risk assessments and reduce the chance of injuries.
So to mitigate slip and trip hazards it is useful to understand what they are and what causes them.
A slip is defined as a loss of footing, which results in an unforeseen and out of control slide of the foot. It is the outcome of a lack of friction between foot and surface. A trip could be categorized as a loss of footing resulting from an unforeseen variation to the walking surface. While this may be reasonably self-explanatory, when system causes of loss of friction are considered researchers have identified four factors:
- An individual's impaired mental or physical condition;
- A slippery surface area
- A flaw in the design of the area; or
- A foreign body or matter on the walking surface.
Mental and Physical Condition
The profile of staff and patrons with regard to their mental and physical condition should be an important feature of every pre-event risk assessment. Complicating factors may include alcohol consumption, expected footwear and age. Some studies have found that uneven flooring surfaces were the single most significant factor in slip and trip injuries sustained by the elderly.
Other studies have identified surface variation and texture, lighting, surface moisture and lack of consistency as key contributory factors. This has obvious implications for selecting venue locations for outdoor events; for the installation of overlay across pedestrian thoroughfares, and for monitoring of cleaning systems during events.
Changes in Thoroughfare Elevation
During the Sydney Games more than 50% of all slip and trip incidents occurred on steps at venues and on kerbs immediately outside venues.
Who's Getting Hurt?
Gender A post Games medical study after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics reported more injuries sustained by women than by men. From the Sydney Games, approximately 65% of all slip and trip incidents were reported by women. Before jumping to any conclusion you may think I am drawing between women and injuries, the research is inconclusive. This may purely suggest that women are more likely to report injuries than men.
Constituent Groups Interestingly, from the Sydney Games, the Games workforce (i.e. including staff and volunteers but excluding contractors), sustained more injuries than spectators from slips and trips. This suggests that staff may be as likely, if not more likely, to sustain slip and trip injuries than the public. This has implications for staff induction and ongoing hazard management during both event and non-event times.
What Can you Do?
To manage slips and trips you should:
- Undertake regular physical inspections of pedestrian and staff thoroughfares throughout your venue/s (including all emergency exits);
- Monitor crowd movements during heavy flows and identify locations where high crowd densities and uneven surfaces combine to increase the consequences of a fall during high crowd flows;
- Ensure slips and trips are included in your pre-event risk assessment with special consideration for the crowd profile and their probable mental and physical condition;
- Document the outcomes of this risk assessment. State OHS laws require you to mitigate slip, trip and fall hazards. To prove you have done so should include a documented risk assessment.
- Investigate all incidents. Understand the system failures that led to these incidents and address the cause not the symptom.
- Collect quantifiable data. Understand where trends are occurring and make risk-based decisions based upon system causes of slip and trips.