Why Do People Slip

There are many different theories about why people slip & fall, at Slip No More we believe in educating the public from a factual point of view. Please have a read through the below article that scientifically highlights why slips & falls occur.

Should you require any further information, please feel free to contact us, we have many products that will drastically increase the safety of your floors at home and at work.

Why do people slip and fall?

As the CSPA Floor Safety article (2002) states, “Walking is an enormously complexactivity involving many muscles, bones and nerves, as well as kinesthetic sensory information that must be blended, graded and co-ordinated by the brain to transport the body from one point to another.” Although adult individuals no longer consciously govern themselves when walking, if there is a moment of in attention and, if there is anunobserved change in floor elevation, or if the surface is damaged or, if there is anunnoted contaminant present, the “blended, graded and coordinated” pattern of walkingmay be disrupted and a fall may ensue.

Goodwin (1999) observes that “People consciously or unconsciously alter their walking styles to account for the perceived slipperiness…people often fall when stepping from a less slippery surface onto one which is more slippery because they have no opportunity to perceive the difference in slipperiness and have not changed their gait accordingly.”

English (1995) comments, “People can walk safely on surfaces that are slipperier than ice, if they know of the hazard.” Di Pilla (2002) supports this English observation regarding lack of knowledge/awareness in that, “Most slip-and-fall incidents happen when people slip on a floor they assume is dry.”

English (2002) notes that, “…women in very high heels modify their gait so as to requireless available traction for normal walking. They are in effect walking on their toes, and they take shorter strides.”

Knowing that people can act to prevent slips and falls, why do people slip and fall?

In Britain, in the catering industry (Slips and Trips, 1996), “Slips account for about 86% of the total of slips and trips injuries. In 90% of cases the floor is wet.” (underliningadded)

Goodwin (1999) describes the mechanism that promotes falls on a wet floor as, “Many floors (especially smooth floors such as vinyl tile and terrazzo) will become dangerously slippery for some footwear when they are wet. This is due to a condition where at themoment of shoe touchdown, a fluid film is trapped under the shoe. This phenomenon,known as hydrodynamic squeeze film, is similar to an automobile hydroplaning.” Inother words, the foot, as it descends, has no traction. An uncontrolled skid occurs. The person loses control and falls.

In British Columbia, the BC School Safety Association (Preventing Slips and falls in Schools,n.d.) describes another factor, “Sand, bits of gravel and dirt are commonly called‘boulder dust’ because they act as miniature ball bearings when caught between a hardfloor surface and a smooth shoe sole.” The shoe loses its traction due to the “ballbearing” effect. The foot “skids away“. The person loses control and falls.

In Britain, in healthcare, the British Health Services (Sheet No. 2, HSE, 1996) indicates:The four main causes of slips and trips accidents in healthcare are:

  • slippery/wet surfaces - caused by water and other fluids;

  • slippery surfaces caused by dry or dusty floor contamination, such asplastic, lint or talcum powder;

  • obstructions, both temporary and permanent;

  • uneven surfaces and changes of level, such as unmarked ramps

Other causes include factors such as poor level of lighting and external glare;human factors such as employees rushing; running or carrying heavy/cumbersome items; the wearing of unsuitable footwear or the use of improper cleaning regimens.

Such factors are common to most slip/fall situations in North America.

Lemon (n.d.) adds, “The data presented suggests that encumbrance increases the risk ofpedestrian slipping. It is also suggested that ‘off-centre’ encumbrance (e.g., the carriageof bags via a shoulder strap) poses a higher slip risk than central encumbrance (e.g., acentrally positioned rucksack).

”Why did the Panel focus its attention on slips that occur indoors and onthe same level? Slips and falls often result in serious injuries with long recovery times. Some peoplenever return to gainful employment after a serious slip/fall.

Meserlian (1999) notes, “There are approximately twice as many fatalities, 14 times as many hospitalizations, and eight times as many non-hospitalized injuries due to fallscompared to fires and burns. The lifetime cost of fall injuries is approximately ten timesthe cost of fire and burn injuries. More than 60% of falls occur on level ground as aresult of slipping or tripping. In New Zealand (Slip resistance of pedestrian surfaces, 1993), “…New South Wales workers’ compensation statistics for 1991/92 show that falls on the same level are responsible for 14.3% of male occupational injuries and 20.7% of female injuries.”

In British Columbia, the BC School Safety Association reported (Preventing Slips in Schools, n.d.), “Slips are a common source of injury in school districts. In the 5 years1993 to 1997, 1,680 time loss injuries resulting from ‘falls on the same level’ were reported to the WCB…this accounts for 15% of all reported incidents and 17% ($7.5million) of all injury costs. The average time lost through each of these accidents was 28 days.

”An unpublished report by the Vancouver School Board (Angel, 1991) states, “…5 yearsof data (1986-90) VSB recorded 885 time-loss accidents of which 177 were suffered by teachers. Of these 177 teacher accidents, 32 or 18% were ‘falls on the same level due to slippery surface’…”