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Eliminating LTI's from Slips, Trips and Falls

No one likes falling, even at the best of times. But when a seemingly innocuous slip happens at the workplace, major problems can ensue. If a worker becomes injured and needs to miss work, that’s lost time (also known as a LTI, or Lost Time Injury). Lost time injuries equate to company costs, being short-staffed, and of course the personal injury suffered to the individual. In Canada, 60,000 workers become injured each year due to slips, trips, and falls. However, some organizations are better than others at mitigating such risks. Global Mountain Solutions (GMS) is one such company – expert Operations Manager Jeff Relph states that since the company’s inception, there have been zero LTIs. One might think that an organization focusing on working in hazardous, high-angle mountainous environments might be even more at risk for slips, trips, and falls – and potentially LTIs. But Jeff is confident that GMS’ stellar track record is sustainable, in part due to the fact that the mountainous areas they work in require close attention, planning, and targeted training.

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Jeff explains that what’s critical to eliminating LTIs from slips, trips and falls is to pay attention. The number one reason for injury occurring is because people get complacent or lose situational awareness. When people forget to be vigilant and focus on safety, that’s when injury can occur. The best way to deal with LTIs is to ensure they don’t happen in the first place, and that involves a multi-pronged approach to planning.

First, it’s critical that any workers have adequate training for the tasks they are required to complete on the job. Specific, targeted training is best at educating workers on what to look for to prevent slips, trips or falls. For example, in mountainous areas, there are hazards present that could lead to LTIs that wouldn’t normally be associated with other workplaces – for example, ground cover and terrain, loose rocky terrain, and holes are all factors that workers need to be trained to look for in advance and deal with as appropriate before any injury occurs. Further to using the right people for the right job, Jeff stresses that courses like Mountain Safety Awareness Training or sourcing individuals with mountain or guiding certification is crucial when sending workers into steep mountain terrain. The combined knowledge and experience of such workers greatly reduces the probability of injury occurring.

Secondly, these trained workers need the right equipment for the job. Easily available and accessible tools that are well maintained will greatly reduce a worker falling. The right equipment also means having the right personal protective equipment (PPE) and footwear. For example, steel-toed boots may be perfect on a construction site, but not ideal on the side of a mountain. Workers need the correct gloves, helmets, and gear that won’t fall off. For example, in rocky terrain workers will want durable gloves – if they slip and cut their hand on a sharp outcropping, that might mean a lost time injury. Sometimes, proper equipment is the difference between injury and finishing a day’s work.

Finally, safety protocols and procedures are important to consider. Prior to work commencing, a site assessment specific to the location and terrain needs to be conducted – hazards are identified, access and egress routes are recommended, and emergency protocols are established. A work site can even be broken into green (unsupervised workers is acceptable), yellow (typically requires supervision by trained staff), or red (highly technical; requires specializes equipment to access). Daily and regular safety meetings are also important; whenever a task changes, a safety meeting is critical as well.

The reality is, no workplace is completely perfect, and although GMS has zero LTIs, they are not immune to risks in the workplace. The important thing though is that a system needs to be in place that makes reporting these hazards – and resolving them – easy for every worker to adopt. Jeff explains that, from his experience, excessive red tape and regulations can often make people shy away from addressing safety concerns. For example, if every time you see the corner of a rug folded up you have to stop all work from proceeding, fill out a stack of paperwork, and call a staff-wide safety meeting, it will likely mean that people are less inclined to follow protocol. Systems need to be simple, easily implemented and effective at addressing issues to be disseminated and adopted across a workplace.

Eliminating LTIs might seem like a lofty goal, but it’s certainly achievable with some awareness, education and planning. Paying attention and staying on your feet will mean workers can carry on, safe and uninjured.

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