5 Tips for Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls in Your Arizona Workplace

Numerous workplace accidents in Arizona are the result of slips, trips and falls. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 15% of all work-related fatalities across the U.S. are caused by slips, trips and falls, and falls are to blame for 17% of all debilitating occupational injuries. Oftentimes, however, these types of accidents may be prevented with a little care and caution. Using the tips may help you avoid suffering injuries that will keep you out of work.

What causes slips, trips and falls in the workplace?

Slips, trips and falls involving workers may be caused by any number of factors. Some of the most common of these include the following:

  • Uneven floor surfaces
  • Wet or slick floors
  • Damaged or worn flooring
  • Walkway obstructions
  • Changes in levels
  • Poor lighting

Additionally, cluttered work areas may also contribute to these types of accidents. As a result of slips, trips and falls, you may suffer sprains and strains, broken bones, head trauma and numerous other potentially serious injuries.

Wear appropriate footwear

Some flooring surfaces may be slick on their own, while others may become incredibly slippery when they are wet or there is dry product on them. It may seem that your primary concerns when choosing your footwear should be comfort, support and fashion. However, you should also consider your shoes’ soles and traction. Wearing shoes that are slip-resistant may help you avoid losing your footing on slick or slippery flooring.

Cover or guard all floor openings

In some work environments, there may be stairway floor openings, pits, trapdoors, chutes, hatchways and other openings. Ensuring that all stairway floor and other openings are guarded by railings on all exposed sides may help prevent you or other workers from falling into them. Additionally, you should use guards on all chute and hatchway openings, and cover any pit or trapdoor openings if they are not in use. When pits and trapdoors are being used, it is important that their openings are attended by a worker at all times in order to warn others of the danger.

Turn the lights on

It goes without saying that if you cannot see where you are going or what you are doing, you may be more likely to slip on something, trip over something or fall down. Therefore, you should use a light source that provides adequate light for you to perform your tasks whenever you are able. If you are working in a dark or dimly lit space, using a flashlight may help you shed some light on the area and avoid some work-related accidents.

Good housekeeping

Regardless of the environment that you are working in, clutter can cause more than just headaches when you are looking for something. If there is debris, tools or other objects around your feet or work space, you may slip on them or trip over them. Keeping your work area clean and free of obstructions may help you stay on your feet and prevent you from suffering potentially debilitating injuries on the job.

Avoid distractions

At home, in your car and at work, you, like others, are likely dialed in to your mobile and other devices. While this may be a part of your job or your normal routine, it can create issues in the workplace if you are not watching where you are going. If you are looking down at your phone, you may not see co-workers, spills, equipment or other hazards that could cause you to slip, trip or fall. Thus, when moving about your work environment, it is advisable for you to take your time and avoid behaviors that may distract you, such as text messaging or checking your social media.

OSHA OMG: Violations and shaming employers

DeniseBlommelBy Denise M. Blommel
Employment Law Attorney

First, penalties for OSHA violations go way up on August 1, 2016.

Second, OSHA admitted on its website that its motivation is to shame employers.

As the kids say, “OMG!”

OSHA penalties have not risen since 1990.

Here’s the new penalty schedule, which Arizona’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) must adopt:

Willful                                                    No less than $8,908 or more than $124,709.

Repeat                                                   No more than $124,709

Serious and other than serious          No more than $12,471

Failure to correct                                  No more than $12,471 per day

Posting violation                                  No more than $12,471

Not every employer has to keep an OSHA 300 log.  (See the list here to ascertain whether your business is exempt.)  If you are exempt, breathe a little easier.  If not, take a deep breath.

If your business has to keep an OSHA 300 log, you only have a few months to get ready for the 21st century version of the pillory stocks. In its record-keeping final rule, the federal government admits, “Behavioral economics tells us that making injury information publicly available will ‘nudge’ employers to focus on safety.”  Dr. David Michaels, the head of OSHA, said that dirty laundry, heretofore private, will be available to investors, job seekers, customers and the public. According to the government, OSHA logs will be the basis for “big data,” which is a cruel joke given the underfunding of this agency.

The new rules also prohibit retaliation against employees. There is no private right of action for employees so they must rely upon ADOSH and the Industrial Commission of Arizona to prosecute their claims. You still must be careful not to retaliate.

ADOSH will be adopting these new rules. They will be phased in over the next two years by the number of employees and the riskiness of industries.

Here’s what you need to do now:

  • Talk with your worker compensation carrier
  • Transition from paper to electronic media
  • Ascertain what records your business must keep
  • Ascertain what is recordable
  • Review your anti-retaliation policies
  • Do not discourage reporting

Part of being an employer in the Modern World is record-keeping. Your employee handbook probably says, “Safety First.”  Now, it is imperative.

OSHA Penalties Go Large

DeniseBlommelBy Denise M. Blommel
Employment Law Attorney

Members of Congress had to take deep breaths and hold their noses to pass the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which kept the federal government open for business. It also mandated a nearly 80% cost of living “catch up” increase to penalties imposed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

You may remember when the “serious violation penalty” was $1,000. It increased to $7,000 in 1990 and has remained there. In comparison, the yardstick Consumer Price Index, has gone up 78% since 1990.

As a prudent businessperson, you need to assume that federal OSHA will raise penalties by the entire amount. As Arizona is a Section 18 State (meaning OSHA allows our Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health to handle all workplace safety matters), we must follow OSHA’s lead. You can expect serious penalties to range from $7,000 to $12,500. Expect willful and repeat violations to range from $70,000 to $125,000.

Scared yet?

It pays to be up to date on OSHA regulations. Consider attending Safety Works Plus this summer, a daylong educational event sponsored by the safety pros at CopperPoint Insurance Companies. Topics ranging from workplace safety, accident investigations, OSHA reporting  and trends in compensability issues will be presented. Click here For information and to register.