Falling down like the hero of an unnecessarily cruel nursery rhyme is a capital way to ruin a dramatic moment: Elizabeth Taylor’s triumphal entry in the 1950 film, Father of the Bride would have lacked somewhat in grandeur if Spencer Tracy’s nightmare had come true, and he had lost his pants after stumbling on a rubber floor. If Gregory Peck, while playing Atticus Finch, had stepped on his shoelace and fallen flat on his face, it would have been played as a cheap metaphor. Had Charlton Heston’s sandal caught on a piece of gravel as he was descending the mountain with the 10 Commandments, the film they shared a name with might have mourned their loss to Moses’s clumsiness, instead of celebrating the campy triumph the movie is known for.
However, the 10 Commandments survived, and so did the moment. Unfortunately, the moment is not the only thing to worry about when it comes to slips, trips, and falls: for instance, 2011 saw 8.9 million emergency room visits and nearly a quarter million fatalities. Clearly, there is more danger involved in slip and fall injuries than some mild embarrassment.
Because of the incidence of slip and fall injuries, the proprietors of walking spaces throughout the U.S. are required to take some precautions to fore fend against the possibility that someone may be badly hurt. Knowledge of these guidelines is beneficial to those desiring to keep their own walking spaces safe, as well as to those wanting to know what their rights are (or were) when they were injured in a fall:
1. Thou shalt establish permanent, predictable paths.
Objects or conditions that interfere with visibility make it necessary for travelers to know their route well or, at least, to be able to guess at it. To prevent confusion, a consistent walkway should be clearly delineated. (Hint: It helps to take a cue from the Ten Commandments here and make their paths straight.)
2. Thou shalt leave no obstructive objects in walking space.
Once you have defined a path, make sure it remains a path. Leaving boxes, books, or golden calves in the way flirts with danger and the just wrath of whoever should encounter said hindrances.
3. Thou shalt keep an orderly work area.
Beyond establishing well-defined walking spaces, the surrounding shelves (or altars, as the case may be) should be kept free of clutter which could fall at the drop of a hat. Keeping a given space safe and free of trip hazards is easier without the threat of falling objects.
4. Thou shalt see that these paths are sufficiently wide to accommodate their traffic.
Just as pedestrians shouldn’t need to worry about bumping into a shelf of bowling balls, neither should the borders of the shelves, themselves (or whatever the border happens to be) pose a risk for those performing whatever tasks are to be performed in the aisle.
5. Thou shalt suffer no protruding nails, boards, etc.
Although hardly large enough to be termed “obstructions,” more subtle hazards include jutting wood planks, peeling carpet, etc. While they do not qualify as sizable alien objects in the walkway, they nevertheless constitute serious threats to free movement.
6. Thou shalt keep walking surfaces dry.
Moses may have parted the Red Sea, but standard water removal requires a certain amount of elbow grease. Wet spots should be wiped up immediately, before someone’s foot goes hydroplaning across the floor.
7. Thou shalt place down mats wherever appropriate.
In areas where there is bound to be moisture or stickiness—locker rooms, the area by the fryer, sacrificial pyres, etc.—mats should be placed down to increase traction and decrease the incidence of falls.
8. Thou shalt wear protective footwear, if applicable.
Where mats would be unsuitable, protective footwear should be required (primarily for use by employees, since this is the usual context for this course of action). If there is a risk that someone may slip, even when considerable care is taken to keep a walking surface safe, grease-proof or otherwise slip-proof shoes are a must.
9. Thou shalt post warnings of slipping hazards.
There may be some time lapse between the detection of a hazard and its removal. This is perfectly fine. What isn’t fine is leaving it as a surprise for someone else to find while you gather the materials to dispose of it. Just as Moses carried down two stone slabs to warn his people not to sacrifice to golden idols, signs should be posted to indicate where a spill has occurred.
10. Thou shalt maintain a safe environment with periodic housekeeping.
You cannot, of course, detect hazards if you aren’t watching out for them. This is why a consistent regimen should be instituted for catching hazards and stopping them in their tracks, so to speak. (It’s okay if Old Man Trouble slips and falls down the stairs.) Prevention of slip and fall injuries requires regular vigilance.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a slip and fall injury, but run into endless problems seeking help from the responsible party to food their medical bills, there is help. Utah personal injury lawyers Ken and Russ at Christensen & Hymas have represented the people of Utah with integrity and compassion throughout their illustrious careers (which landed them in Newsweek). For a free consultation, call their office at (801) 506-0800.
Image Courtesy of Maryland State Archives