Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls
Half of all injuries on church property are related to slips, trips, and falls. These accidents can be attributed to a variety of issues, such as snow or ice, cracked or raised sidewalks, or slippery floors.
To prevent slip-and-falls, follow these steps:
- Take an inventory of potential exposures in the interior of buildings and outside property.
- Develop a list of remedial actions that can be taken.
- Repair the worst and most hazardous conditions first.
- Develop a timeline for other repairs.
Consider the amount of traffic and type of people who use an area with a hazard when prioritizing repairs. Children and senior citizens are more at risk for slips-and-falls.
Priorities should be set based on hazard correction needs rather than allowing cost to determine if and how you will respond.
Sidewalks and other exterior walkways represent a 24-hour exposure to tripping and falling. They are used by church members, but also members of the public, and should be frequently inspected.
Timely snow and ice removal from exterior walks and stairs is essential in order to prevent accidents during winter months. Short of removal, salting or sanding of icy walking surfaces is strongly recommended. Pay close attention to shady areas since they are more prone to ice buildup. In extreme cases, icy areas should be blocked off until the hazard is alleviated.
Carpeting inside the church provides a superior slip-resistant surface over tile or wood. It can also provide some cushioning in the event of a fall.
Mats used in entrances minimize slipping hazards on hard-surface floors and help to reduce tracked moisture and debris. Mats should be water-absorbent and not present additional tripping hazards. They should have beveled edges, be at least 3/8 of an inch thick, and be large enough not to curl or slide easily. Permanently installed recessed mats are preferred.
Thresholds or saddles within the doorways should be grooved and no more than 3/4 of an inch high and should slope at the edges to minimize tripping hazards.
Stair tread riser heights should be about seven inches and tread depths should be about 11 inches. Handrails should be on both sides of the steps and placed 34-38 inches above enclosed steps.
Treat stair surfaces with slip-resistant material or abrasive stripping. Adequate lighting should be provided for both interior and exterior stairs.
No matter what floor covering you have, it will not protect a church from the hazard of food dropped during the potluck in the fellowship hall, extension cords stretched across walkways, coffee spilled in the parlor after the service, rainwater coming in through an open office window, or crayons, balls, and toy trucks in the Sunday school hallway.
Monitor floors during and after events to ensure that spills and debris are promptly cleaned. Consider designating one person to pick up children’s toys after events. Properly secure windows to avoid rain or snow leaks.
Do not use extension cords as replacements for electrical outlets, and tape down any extension cord where occupants will need to walk over it.
Inspect, repair, and maintain
Know what tripping and slipping hazards are present in your facilities, and take steps to remove the possibility of an accident occurring. Your church – and church members – will be safer for it.