Slip & Fall Prevention Starts with Knowing Where the Risks Exist

EMC Insurance Companies Risk Improvement Engineering Specialist Laurie Hoskins has seen it all—from painful injuries that cost workers their livelihoods to expensive settlements that can devastate a business’s finances and reputation. But even she is sometimes surprised how much damage can occur in the blink of an eye.

She remembers one case like it was yesterday: an employee was working a nightshift alone, when they fell off a ladder onto the ground. Completely incapacitated, they laid alone on the floor until the morning staff arrived to find them.

The scenario was unimaginable—but the “what-ifs” were just as concerning. What if the employee had been scheduled to work the last shift before the weekend, and help couldn’t arrive until the following Monday? What if the employee had been unable to access critical medication like insulin? And what if the employee had required immediate medical intervention to save their life?

Cases like this may be rare—but slip and fall incidents caused by standing liquids are not. Over the course of Laurie’s career, she’s seen people slip on trace amounts of water, just seconds after a spill. And while it takes only a moment for an accident to occur, the road to recovery for injured workers is neither fast, nor easy.

Recovering from a slip and fall incident can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple years or longer, depending on the location and severity of the injury. And according to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), “22% of slip/fall accidents resulted in more than 31 days away from work.”

Slip and falls are one of the most common reasons cited for workers’ compensation claims across almost every industry, for businesses large and small. Tom Goedken, former Chief Financial Officer for an educational test company, says slip and fall incidents accounted for roughly 60% of all workers’ compensation claims at his 1,500-employee business during his tenure. This is even lower than the national average—according to the NSFI, “85% of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to employees slipping on slick floors.”

“The cost of each slip and fall-related workers’ comp claim can range anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000,” according to Goedken’s own estimate. “But that doesn’t paint the full picture. There are also costs related to finding and training replacements, whether those are temporary or permanent.”

The real cost, says Goedken, can be the loss of morale among your best employees. “No one wants to be out of work due to an accident; it’s a very stressful time. Some employees wrestle with filing claims at all because they fear the stigma of asking for assistance, or because they think it will hurt their opportunities for advancement. Even when the workplace is very supportive, these kind of perceptions are deeply entrenched and hard to combat. In the end, the employee suffers more than just the initial injury. There’s a lot of emotional pain and self-blame as well.”

Creating a Prevention Mindset

Businesses have a “duty of care” to protect everyone invited onto their property—employees, customers, vendors, and visitors. Legally, they must do everything in their power (within reason) to keep others safe from foreseeable dangers.

In court, a slip and fall victim could sue a business for failing to clean up a spill in a reasonable amount of time. Similarly, an employee would have little trouble securing workers’ compensation for a fall caused by equipment that was known by management to leak fluids.

While every company wants to prevent slip and falls—not only to reduce claims, but to protect the people in their care—knowing when and where the risks exist is half the battle.

Take an employee enjoying the last minutes of their break in the staff lounge, for example. They might not think twice about the ice cube that falls out of their cup—either because they don’t understand the inherent risk it creates, or simply because they don’t have the time to search for the missing ice cube before heading back to their desk. As a result, no preventative action is taken, and the ice cube is allowed to melt on the floor, creating a well-known slipping hazard.

Even when they’re aware of what constitutes a risk, employees might not know who to report the incident to in the first place. In the day-to-day shuffle of doing business, several staff members could walk past the same hazard and all think to themselves: “Someone else will probably take care of this.”

So where does the buck stop? With janitorial staff? Management? The CEO?

“Risk prevention needs to be a cultural mindset,” says Hoskins. “It’s up to every person at every level to understand their company’s policies and protocols for addressing hazardous workplace conditions. And it’s up to management to make sure employees receive the right training, and that there are systems in place for reporting and responding to hazards.”

Getting Proactive

One of Hoskins’ duties as a Risk Improvement Engineering Specialist is to help companies take proactive steps in reducing slip and falls. More often than not, this includes performing a risk assessment to identify potential hazards, training employees on what they can do to keep themselves safe, and helping management create a plan for addressing hazards as they arise.

But even companies with robust slip and fall prevention programs are still prone to human error. Thankfully, advances in artificial intelligence are beginning to provide a more reliable way to not only identify, but also mitigate risks as they occur in real time, allowing companies to use their surveillance systems to get proactive—instead of using them to review footage after the damage has been done.

With IntelliSee’s AI-powered risk mitigation platform, companies can automate the process of identifying and reporting risks, sending alerts directly to the people responsible for addressing them. In the event a hazard continues to go unaddressed, or if an injury occurs, escalated alerts can be sent until the situation is resolved, ensuring that no employee has to experience what Hoskins’ client went through.

“One of the main benefits to a platform like IntelliSee is that it automates the tasks humans are either likely to get wrong or incapable of doing altogether,” says Goedken.

“People can’t be in all places at all times, so hazards will inevitably slip past their radar. Even a security officer facing a wall of screens can’t monitor every camera at every second of the day. But IntelliSee can. The platform’s ability to instantaneously identify a variety of risks across all locations will be a total game changer. It could save some companies millions of dollars each year.”

Complement Your Risk Mitigation Strategy with IntelliSee

While there’s nothing more powerful than an informed, proactive workforce, IntelliSee can complement your existing risk prevention program to reinforce its weak spots and ultimately, make it more effective.

“If you can increase your situational awareness, do it,” said Hoskins. “The number one way to mitigate slip and fall risks is to know where they exist, why they exist, and what you can do about it.”

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