Did you know half of all falls that resulted in a fatality involved heights of 3 metres or less? Slips, trips and falls are the second leading cause of workplace injury, after hazardous manual tasks.

These incidents are a significant problem affecting every workplace, from the factory floor to the office and often can result in serious injury and lengthy amounts of time off work.

Slips and trips account for around 20% of all lost time injuries every year. Risk factors that contribute to slips and trips injuries will vary according to the type of workplace and work tasks being completed.

How falls occur

Falls can occur at ground level as a result of a slip or trip. Slip and trip hazards at ground level often arise from:

  • uneven or broken floor or ground surfaces
  • slippery floor surfaces caused by water, fluid spillage and oil
  • objects such as equipment or boxes blocking walkways
  • stairs or steps
  • carrying things or stacking trolleys so high that they obscure your view ahead
  • poor lighting
  • inadequate or inappropriate footwear
  • distraction, rushing.

Fall hazards where work is undertaken at heights include:

  • working on ladders
  • stacking shelves
  • working on a roof
  • unloading a truck
  • getting in or out of a truck cab.

Preventing a fall

Often, it is the little things that cause slipping, tripping and falling to happen in the first place, so it is important to remember to work together to remove these hazards before injuries occur. There are several ways to help minimise these incidents occurring, such as:

  • storing equipment correctly
  • using ladders and steps safely
  • reporting damage to floors and surfaces
  • implementing a clean and clear walkway policy
  • affixing mats to the floor surface
  • removing cords from walking areas
  • restricting access to areas that are potentially hazardous
  • providing ramps instead of steps where the height of floor levels change
  • providing adequate lighting
  • using warning signs.

Three points of contact

Following the three points of contact rule can prevent a range of falls. Three points of contact means you’re using two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet, to support your body. Situations where you should use three points of contact include:

  • using a ladder
  • going up or down steep stairs (where you can reach both handrails)
  • using an escalator
  • getting in and out of a vehicle, particularly truck/van cabs and SUVs.

You should only brake the three points of contact after your reach your destination (the ground, vehicle cab).

Keep these tips in mind when using the three points of contact rule:

  • have dry hands and shoes and wipe excess mud off your boots for more effective grips
  • face the vehicle when you enter or exit
  • face the ladder
  • use the handrails
  • check for obstacles, debris or fluids on the ground before dismounting from a vehicle
  • keep your hands free for gripping the ladder or handrails
    • if you need to bring tools or materials up to a platform, place them in a tool belt or use a hoist line for larger items
    • if you are climbing down from a vehicle, put the tool or other item on the floor and then retrieve it from the ground

Do not:

  • use a tyre as a ladder — enter the vehicle way the manufacturer intended and do not reach for the steering wheel, brake etc to pull yourself up
  • jump from a height onto the ground — you can easily injure and ankle or knee
  • try to enter a piece of equipment that’s moving
  • wear loose clothing/ jewellery that could catch on something.

Three points of contact sounds simple, and you probably already do it most of the time. But it’s that one time you don’t that can land you in trouble.

Up next: Manual handling

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