School safety committee triage tips for addressing slips, trips, and falls

School safety committee triage tips for addressing slips, trips, and falls

By RAS Companies

Slips, trips, and falls are among the top workers’ compensation and general liability exposures for school districts. Prevention is critical, but deciding where to focus your prevention efforts and budgets can be daunting.

Look back to move forward

Review your district’s workers’ compensation and liability slip/fall claims from the previous two to three years. Separate claims by specific categories such as snow/ice, liquid/grease spills, falls on stairs, or same level trips.

Examine the injuries in each cause category to look for any trends in employee groups by occupation, specific locations, and times of the day, month, or year. Your workers’ compensation and liability insurers should be able to provide your committee with this level of detail.

Reviewing individual accident descriptions can provide additional valuable insights into the root causes of your slips, trips, or falls such as distracted walking, participation in student games/sports, inadequate walk-off mats at entrances, poorly lit areas, or responding to student elopement or behavior.

Once the committee has identified your district’s unique trends and root slip/fall causes, triaging and planning for appropriate remediation efforts can begin.

Prioritize and respond to identified trends.

One metropolitan Minnesota school district noted most of their winter slip/fall reports coming from one specific location which was maintained by an outside entity. District leaders met with managers of the third-party location to encourage more thorough and effective snow/ice removal methods and ways to minimize available short cuts through landscaping. Requesting these improvements, along with encouraging staff to wear winter-appropriate footwear resulted in a reduction in their snow and ice-related fall claims by 67%.

This success energized the safety committee to focus on the second highest cause of slips/falls noted in a particular elementary school location. More robust walk-off mats were purchased, Waterhog matting was added around water fountains, lighting was improved in the stairwells, and custodians began performing more routine facility walk-throughs to ensure common walkways were clear from hazards such as leaves, backpacks, boots, hats, mittens, pencils, and other items. The committee can now review future injury numbers to measure the success of their efforts.

Additional slip, trip, and fall prevention ideas include:

  • Complete a formal environmental risk assessment at least twice each year to identify hazards for remediation during the various seasons. Pay special attention to walk-off mat length and condition. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, walkway issues cause 55% of slips/trips/falls.
  • Ensure each entry has an adequate width and length of walk-off floor matting to manage dirt, debris, and moisture effectively. Safety experts generally recommend 8-10 walking steps (16-20 feet) of matting in wet conditions and 10-12 walking steps (20-25 feet) in snowy weather conditions.
  • Identify and level out low spots in exterior parking lots, sidewalks, and playgrounds. These low areas often needlessly allow for rain, snow, and ice accumulation. Our Minnesota melt-and-refreeze cycles then increase slip and fall risks.
  • Evaluate housekeeping procedures to minimize hazards. Use cleaners with a high coefficient of friction rating. Assign specific staff to ongoing prevention tasks such as cleaning spills, straightening lumpy mats, and re-routing cords from walkways.
  • Increase safety awareness by emailing or posting slip/trip/fall prevention reminders in break areas, near common printers, or in employee newsletters.
  • Discourage active staff participation in student games and sports.
  • Develop procedures for responding safely to student elopement.

Identifying your district’s unique injury trends can help the safety committee triage and direct its precious time, energy, and money toward the most frequent and costliest areas of risk. The resulting prevention efforts will be those most likely to keep staff, students, and visitors safely on their feet.

For information about RAS Companies and risk management resources, visit our website at https://rascompanies.com.

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