Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Slips, trips and falls: Slip resistant footwear

Slips, trips and falls (STFs) are the most common cause of workplace injury, accounting for nearly 40 percent of all reported major injuries. The National Safety Council estimate more than $70 billion is spent annually for worker's compensation and medical costs linked to falls that occur at work. Only motor vehicle accidents outrank STFs when it comes to accidental deaths. Many STFs are preventable, especially through the use of proper slip resistance footwear.

According to a 2009 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care industry has a higher slip and fall percentage for its workers then all other private industries combined. Slip and fall injuries account for up to 25 percent of lost-workday injuries for health care workers. Worse, a slip or fall often results in a more serious injury, requiring additional time off work and/or a decreased ability on the part of the injured employee to perform his or her job at the same level as before. Experts cite environment as the primary cause and hospitals and clinics are filled with changes in floor levels and surface changes, such as abrupt transitions from pavement to linoleum to carpet, etc. Health care workers also experience a blocked or limited line of vision while transporting patients or equipment which can increase the risk of accidents. STFs can and do occur anywhere, the fast food, grocery store, hospitality, manufacturing, and restaurant markets are also highly prone to slip-related injuries. Workers in all of these industries are exposed to water, grease, clutter, and transitioning from one type of floor to another. Restaurant workers carry heavy trays piled high with food in dimly lit environments. Grocery store clerks may work on polished or freshly waxed floors. Manufacturing employees face electrical cords and cables or dry floors with wood dust or powder, and/or slick metal surfaces such as dock plates.

Experts believe most falls are caused by a lack of friction, or grip, between the shoe and the ground surface. A Coefficient of Friction (COF) of .40 or higher is recommended. To optimised safety slip-resistant work shoes are recommended. To reduce accidents it makes sense for employees to determine the appropriate slip-resistant shoe necessary for their work environment. This is challenging because many shoes labelled as "slip resistant" often are not effective enough for chefs, nurses, and other professionals who are exposed to hazardous floors. When buying work shoes it pays dividends to comfortable shoes that fit. The most important aspect to slip resistance is the outsole compound. Generally, rubber compounds are most effective for slip resistance in oil and grease, but results can vary greatly just by slight changes in the rubber compound. The best rubber compounds disperse most oil and grease to the channels of the shoes, thus allowing the sole to reach the floor. Other outsole compounds may have difficulty dispersing oil and grease, and the result is lower slip resistance and lower COF ratings. To know which outsoles work best, it's very important to look at test results from independent labs. The space and depth of tread on a shoe are also an integral piece in the effectiveness of slip-resistant footwear. Treads with more 90-degree angles can help to reduce lateral slips. Finally, it is important to remember that slip-resistant shoes, while beneficial, are not a magical cure for all workplace slips and falls. Slips and falls can occur even with the best shoes.

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