If you want to reduce falls, you’ve got to plan

Slips and falls are a leading loss driver in both frequency and severity, says Jim Sheridan, senior risk control consultant with PMA Insurance Group in Blue Bell, PA. To remain attractive to insurers, health care providers must take a proactive approach to reducing falls and liability, he says. So where do risk managers go wrong when trying to reduce slips and falls? Too often, he says, risk managers try to implement a generalized fall reduction plan instead of devising one specific to your own needs. "A good comprehensive program that address your specific circumstances is going to reduce the frequency and severity of your slip and fall accidents, absolutely," he says.

Sheridan offers this advice:

Don’t just try to make a quick fix.

Some of the most successful strategies for reducing slips and falls are fairly simple, but don’t put too much faith in any one solution, he says. A comprehensive management program is necessary to see real results. "Risk managers go wrong when they avoid looking at the big picture and instead they just throw down some floor mats," he says. "Putting umbrella bags by the door when it rains is a good idea, but it’s not enough."

• Don’t look only at national statistics.

Focus on your own experience and your own data, Sheridan says. Your particular facility, patient population, and staff may present risks that are different from those in the average health care organization.

• Remember that the entire organization is not the same.

Chances are good that you have more slips and falls in certain departments. Focus your attention where it is needed.

• Look for trends in how the accidents occur.

Do they happen more at certain times of the day? How about during inclement weather? Do you have an effective plan for rainy days when floors get wet around entryways?

• Include outside areas in your plan.

It’s easy to focus extensively on indoor concerns and neglect the campus, Sheridan says. But when someone falls outside on your property, you’re just as liable. Weather greatly complicates this concern in some parts of the country. If you get snow, do you have a snow removal plan? "Snow can be a huge issue because first it melts and then it refreezes," he says. "If you’re in an area with that risk, you have to have a real plan, something very well thought out, or else you’re just inviting falls and lawsuits."