MAYWOOD, Ill. – Frigid weather and sloppy precipitation are enough to send even the calmest person racing to find shelter. Combine the climate with busy schedules and frantic Christmas shoppers and you have a recipe for danger during the slippery season.
“Shiny, clean floors can become as slick as ice when moisture and grime are tracked in by employees and customers,” said Dr. Mary Capelli-Schellpfeffer, medical director of Loyola University Health System’s Occupational Health Services. “During the winter months, remember to caution employees and business visitors about weather-related slip and trip hazards. Falls are the most common reason people seek help at U.S. immediate-care facilities and emergency departments. More significantly, falls can lead to serious trauma."
Here are a few tips to be prepared:
Raise awareness. Alert employees to hazardous areas where falls are more likely to occur. These include foyer and lobby areas or places where flooring surfaces change, such as at doorways, curbs, stairways, elevators, parking ramps and other high “people-movement” paths.
Use signage. Caution signs in bright colors can warn employees and customers about spots that may be slippery.
Plan ahead. Have a plan in place and make sure that all employees know how to respond should a fall occur. Priority should be placed on identifying first responders who can assist a fall victim. Training should also include how to redirect employees or customers passage and traffic when first aid or emergency care is under way. If your business uses a special telephone code to access local Emergency Medical System (EMS) 9-1-1 dispatchers, include this information in new employee orientation and during regular safety meetings.
Control access. A winter storm arriving immediately before an operation opens for the day is a real threat. Ideally a company’s outdoor and public access spaces will always be well-shoveled and salted. But sometimes the shovels and de-icers can’t keep up with the weather. If specific walkways or parking lots are unmanageable, consider closing off access and redirecting people toward safer locations.
“It’s simply human nature to feel embarrassed after a fall,” Capelli-Schellpfeffer said. “Once we’re down, most of us scramble to get back up, acting as if it really wasn’t so terrible to land on the ground. If we hurry around water, snow or ice, we risk another fall!"
Before acting to help a fall victim stand, take a moment to assess the situation. If the employee or customer who has fallen asks for assistance, be sure your footing is secure as you give aid. If you respond to a fall scenario and find an individual is unconscious, here are reasonable action steps:
- Call for the company’s first response team or 9-1-1 to bring immediate medical attention to the scene.
- Do not try to lift the fall victim alone.
- Do not allow those who have fallen and suffered a bout of unconsciousness to operate a vehicle until they are checked by medical professionals. Even if the victim regains consciousness and claims to be fine, insist on a medical visit.
- Sometimes acute injuries are not immediately apparent. Though a person may be able to walk away from a fall, an injury may not become painful until later. After a fall, a medical evaluation including X-rays can diagnose fall-related bone fractures.
“Falls can cause more than a simple fracture. These common events can result in serious internal injury. Falls disrupt daily routines and complicate business operations,” Capelli-Schellpfeffer said. “Fall avoidance keeps people safe and saves employers’ reputation with customers. Prevention is really the best medicine to keep employees, customers and businesses healthy."
Loyola Occupational Health Services provides onsite physical assessments, wellness workshops and immunization programs. For more information, please call toll-free (888) LUHS-888 (888-584-7888).