COMMENTARY

Slipping, Tripping, and Falling at Work

James W. Collins, PhD, MSME; Jennifer L. Bell, PhD

Disclosures

June 11, 2012

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

In This Article

Prevention of Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards for Hospital Workers

To investigate an infusion pump alarm, a nurse enters a patient's room at night very quietly, using a flashlight, to avoid waking the patient. She doesn't see a duffel bag that has been placed by a family member on the floor just inside the room and trips over it, breaking her wrist as she hits the floor.

A member of the housekeeping staff is cleaning a sink and slips on something on the floor, twisting her back as she tries to keep herself from falling. A close look at the spill reveals that hand sanitizer has dripped onto the floor underneath a wall-mounted dispenser.

Slip, trip, and fall (STF) events are the second leading cause of workers' compensation claims in hospitals. In 2010, a total of 12,400 STF events accounted for 21% of all work-related injuries in hospitals requiring at least 1 day away from work.[1]The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the incidence rate of lost-workday injuries from same-level STFs in hospitals was 33.8 per 10,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, which is 73% higher than the average rate of STF events for workers in private industry (19.5 per 10,000 FTE).[2]

The healthcare industry is the largest employer in the United States, with an estimated 15.7 million workers.[3] Between 2008 and 2018, healthcare growth is projected to be higher than any other industrial sector, adding 3.2 million new jobs.[4]

Best Practice Research

Fall prevention in hospitals typically focuses on patients, with little attention paid to STF events involving hospital staff. Contrary to popular belief, STF events can be prevented. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in collaboration with a team of international experts, conducted laboratory and field research to identify best practices to prevent STF events among hospital workers.[5,6] The research culminated in a 10-year intervention trial in 3 acute care hospitals, demonstrating that a comprehensive STF prevention program can be highly effective in reducing the rate of STF workers' compensation claims.[5]

Researchers worked with hospital staff to design, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive STF prevention program. After implementing the program, the hospital's total STF workers' compensation claims decreased by 59%.[7] More details on implementing a comprehensive STF prevention program in healthcare facilities can be found on the NIOSH Web site.

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