Investigation Confirms that Workplace Interventions Reduce the Incidence of Slips, Trips and Falls

Researchers conducting a scientific investigation aimed to reduce the incidence of slips, trips and falls for hospital workers who found evidence that implementation of a broad-scale prevention program can significantly reduce injury claims have won the Best Paper Award from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and the Ergonomics Society.

The scientific paper, “Evaluation of a Comprehensive Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention Programme for Hospital Employees” (Ergonomics, Vol. 51, No. 12, pp. 1906-1925, Dec. 2008), was the culmination of a 10-year research project between the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Division of Safety Research, BJC Healthcare, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and the Washington University School of Medicine.

“We selected this year’s winner for its merit in making a major contribution in its field,” says Roger Haslam, chairman of the Ergonomics Society Honours Committee and coordinating editor of Ergonomics. “The work represents a significant advancement for contemporary ergonomics. The paper is an important and substantive longitudinal study that provides much needed evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce the incidence of slips, trips, and falls.”

For the study, researchers designed, implemented and evaluated a comprehensive slip, trip and fall prevention program for hospital employees in three acute-care hospitals. The researchers examined the injury experience of hospital employees for 10 years, before and after implementation of the program.

The comprehensive prevention program included analysis of injury records to identify common causes of slips, trips and falls; on-site hazard assessments; changes to housekeeping procedures and products; introduction of slip, trip and fall preventive products and procedures; general awareness campaigns; programs for external ice and snow removal; flooring changes; and slip-resistant footwear for certain employee subgroups. The hospitals’ total slip, trip and fall workers’ compensation claims rate declined by 59 percent after the intervention – a rate significantly greater than the national hospital lost-workday slip, trip and fall injury rate.

The winning researchers include Jennifer L. Bell, Ph.D., James W. Collins, Ph.D., MSME and Sharon Chiou, Ph.D. of NIOSH’s, Division of Safety Research; Laurie Wolf, MS, CPE, of BJC Health Care, Corporate Health Services; Raoul Grönqvist, Ph.D., of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health; Gary S. Sorock, Ph.D., of Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health; Wen-Ruey Chang, Ph.D., Theodore K. Courtney, M.S. C.P.S., and David A. Lombardi, Ph.D., of the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety; and Bradley Evanoff, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine.

“Slip, trip and fall injury events in hospitals have a myriad of causes and the work conditions in hospitals are diverse,” says Bell. “Our research provides evidence that implementation of a broad-scale prevention program can significantly reduce slip, trip, and fall injury claims. We are grateful that our work was recognized for this important award.”

The Best Paper Award promotes excellence in safety and health research. The annual Award, established in 2005 by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and the Ergonomics Society, recognizes the paper published in the journal Ergonomics that best contributes to the advancement of ergonomics. The editors of Ergonomics, in conjunction with the Ergonomics Society Honors Committee, select the winner from all of the papers published in the journal over the given year. All papers published in the journal are considered.

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