March 12, 2010
Photo by Mark Ferguson
While the freeze-thaw-freeze temperature cycle may be a harbinger of spring, it is also a reminder for people to be careful where they walk.
“We’ve had a raft of slips, trips and falls on campus,” said Brian Bjorndal, director of Workplace Safety and Environmental Protection (WSEP) at the U of S. In February alone, six falls were reported, four serious enough to require medical attention and two serious enough to result in lost work time. In 2009, there were 63 reported slips, trips or falls on campus. Of that total, 34 were minor and 29 required medical attention. Injuries were serious enough in 18 cases to require time away from work to recover.
“One in five of all of our reported injuries are falls,” said Bjorndal, “and most are what we call same-level falls, not falling off a ladder or other elevated platform. They’re when someone slips on something or trips on something.”
Outdoors, most occur on ice “so that may require some sanding or snow removal. Indoors, it’s often a housekeeping issue like water on the floor, a loose mat or poor flooring,” he said. Either way, reporting an incident allows WSEP to determine the cause and take action to minimize a recurrence.
“Winter is the worst time,” Bjorndal said, “and even the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) says slips and falls comprise the largest number of their claims so this is not unique to the university.”
Particularly in winter, people need to be aware of the hazards and take some responsibility for their own safety, he said. “We can only do so much sanding, so people have to take some personal ownership.” Wearing appropriate footwear is important and “altering your gait or shortening your stride helps too. Those are the kinds of things you and I can do, but sometimes we forget when we’re hurrying to a meeting.”
Bjorndal’s advice is “be vigilant” and report unsafe or slippery conditions outdoors around campus to the Facilities Management Division.