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Four simple steps to prevent fall injuries

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Passionate parent of two teenage boys Gavan McGuane could never have imagined his life’s path would be permanently altered by an innocuous pub cool room mat that wasn’t lying flat on the ground.

At just 36, Gavan lost all vision in one eye, and 80 per cent of his vision in the other after he tripped on a mat entering the pub’s cool room and landed on a beer keg. In trying to cushion his fall, Gavan accidentally activated a valve that sprayed an alkaline substance mixed with pressurised gas into his face, instantly blinding him.

To appreciate the personal and workplace impacts of this incident, watch Gavan’s story.

Workplace injuries suffered from falls at ground level, like Gavan’s, or from height, are alarmingly too common among Queensland businesses. Injuries from falls are caused by several factors including:

  • contamination spills such as water, oil, litter, dust and plastic bags
  • uneven ground/floor surfaces
  • poorly maintained floor coverings
  • poor workplace housekeeping
  • poor cleaning methods and procedures
  • internal and external obstacles
  • incorrect footwear.

WorkCover Queensland data shows that musculoskeletal injuries from falls accounted for 7,919 claims in the 2014-2015 financial year at a cost of over $51 million.

Industry sectors with the highest incidence of fall injuries in 2014-2015 were health care, education and training, manufacturing, construction, and accommodation and food services.

WorkCover Industry Manager Laurent Cazier says fall injuries in the workplace are easily preventable if employers and workers work together on four simple steps – identify hazards, assess their risk, fix the problem and monitor performance.

“There is no excuse for complacency from employers and workers when it comes to eliminating workplace hazards which can cause people to slip, trip and fall and suffer potentially life-threatening injuries,” Laurent said. 

“It is critical that workplaces address  poorly designed or maintained workplace fixtures, such as steps, stairs andfloor/ground coverings.  Non-slip surfaces are a must for workplaces handling liquids and other contaminants.

Workplaces should also aim to keep contaminants off the floor and clean spills up promptly, ensure adequate lighting so workers can clearly see where they are walking, highlight any hazards that can’t be removed and implement a sensible footwear policy.

“Average claim costs of $6,326 per claim and average time to return to work of 23 days are compelling reasons why preventing fall injuries should be a top priority for employers and workers,” Laurent said.  

There are plenty of easy to use tools and resources from trusted global injury prevention authorities, including Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, available for employers and workers to prevent fall injuries. 

Last updated
29 May 2017