By Bill Tricarico
Director , Risk Management Services
Emergency Services Insurance Program
As a first responder, think about the dangerous situations you face almost daily. Whether it is working in a building which is on fire or of questionable structural integrity, working near highway traffic or in wrecked vehicles, dealing with blood borne pathogens and communicable diseases, or responding with lights and sirens through dangerous intersections, the situations could be extremely harrowing. But as we look through injury and illness reports, we find that there are a surprising number of slip, trip, and fall type injuries suffered by emergency service workers each year. These injuries may occur when getting on or off emergency vehicles, while going through the station or parking lots to the response vehicles, or at home in the initial stages of response and could be very serious and painful in nature. Falls are actually the fourth leading cause of work related fatalities for all occupations in the United States and must be taken seriously by emergency service workers. Slip, trip, and fall hazards around the station not only present a danger to members, but also to those who visit these buildings whether for fund raising events, voting, fire prevention demonstrations or the many other times when you welcome the public into your building. As a result, a concerted effort should be made to reduce these types of hazards. This may be done by conducting regular recorded inspections of the building looking for potential hazards which could cause a slip, trip, and/or fall. Make certain that carpeting is tight and free from rips or tears. All doormats should be stable and flat. Stairways should be unobstructed and have adequate and sturdy handrails. All areas should be well lit and where needed, emergency lighting should be provided. Vehicle areas should be free of grease or oil and these floors should drain properly. Portable equipment should always be properly stowed and not left on the floor and compartment doors closed. The outside of the building is important as well. Snow and ice should be dealt with as soon as possible and drainage should always be away from walkways. Sidewalks and parking lots should be free from potholes, ruts, and radical, unexpected changes in surface height. Outside stairways should also be uncluttered as well as free of snow and ice build-up and illuminated as necessary. As for getting on and off apparatus, remember the following:
•Always use the three point rule. That is, have at least one foot and two hands or both feet and one hand in contact with the vehicle at all times.
•Always use the mounting handles and stepping surfaces designed for entering and exiting the vehicle.
•Make certain your footwear is free from mud, ice, oil, and other slippery substances before entering or exiting the vehicle.
Slips, trips, and falls injure many firefighters and EMS workers every year and also cause injuries to visitors. With proper vigilance, these types of injuries may be reduced greatly. If you would like a slip, trip, and fall checklist to assist in your regular inspections, please contact ESIP’s Loss Control Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.