Top 10 strategies for reducing slips and falls

Experts say these are the top 10 strategies for reducing slips, trips, falls, and the associated liability:

1. Assess flooring surfaces.

Study friction levels and eliminate uneven surfaces. Choose flooring surfaces carefully when designing or remodeling any part of the facility. Remember that different areas of the facility will require different flooring surfaces, notes Ruth M. Maher, PT, DPT, MPT, BS, director of physical therapy at HyOx Medical Treatment Center in Marietta, GA. The emergency department (ED) will need a high-quality, no-skid surface because you can expect fluids to be spilled frequently and people to be rushing around.

2. Choose waxes and other floor treatments carefully.

3. Promptly clean up spillage and debris.

This requires an aggressive response when a hazard is observed, says Mary Lange, RN, BSN, MHA, CPHQ, CRM, director of quality risk management at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, IL. "In the time it takes you to make a mental note of the spill and walk over to a phone to call housekeeping, you could have two people slip in it," she says. "If you have to stand over it and warn people away while someone else calls housekeeping, that might be the better way to address it."

4. Provide warning for wet areas.

5. Promote or require shoe wear that is slip-resistant and waterproof.

6. Use anti-slip mats in appropriate areas — especially any area in which water may be spilled.

7. Keep passageways free from clutter and power cords.

Provide floor plugs so cords do not have to run across floors. That is a huge risk in health care settings, especially in the ED. Hallways jammed with equipment carts are another risk. Consider having a designated safety officer in each department who can do spot checks to look for hazards.

8. Clean stairs and walkways.

9. Provide adequate lighting.

10. Require staff to use ladders for reaching high places — never a stool, chair, or box.