Reduce workplace injuries: Avoid overexertion, slips, trips and falls

July 1, 2021 By    

When you are focused on your work, you may miss issues that can pose hazards, potentially leading to a slip, trip, fall or overexertion and resulting in serious injury. By exercising precautions and staying aware of your environment and circumstances, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of such issues. Such awareness is part of a personal risk assessment that should be performed for every job.

Common causes of slips, trips and falls

Obstacles in your path; slippery or wet surfaces; improper footwear; improper entry into or exit out of delivery vehicles; and jumping from heights such as from loading docks or the rear of trucks are common causes of slips, trips and falls, as are distractions such as texting while walking and talking with customers and conducting tasks.

Slippery surfaces

Consider weather conditions, route and travel issues, and any special requirements of job sites.

To stay on your feet when walking on slippery surfaces:

  • Take small steps.
  • Avoid accelerating or changing directions quickly.
  • Watch transitions from dry to slippery surfaces.
  • Take extra caution when focused on work.
  • Also wear appropriate footwear, such as:
  • Boots or shoes in good condition with slip-resistant soles.
  • Wear ice cleats in winter conditions. Make sure they easily fit over shoes or boots and provide ample traction on snow and ice.

Proper lifting techniques

Use a power lift, a technique that leverages body stability and strength, for heavy materials such as cylinders, and focus on upper-body support when picking up a lightweight tool or component. Take a staggered stance to give your body stability.

Here are a few more safe-lifting tips:

  • Keep the load close to your body. Holding materials away from your body will make them seem heavier and cause as much as 10 times more stress to your back. Always hold materials such as hoses and cylinders close.
  • If you are lifting from a pallet, work off of the corners of the pallet, and place one foot along each side.
  • Be sure to keep the load between your knees.
  • Bend at the hips and knees. This allows you to use your leg muscles, which will provide stability, support and strength.
  • When you start lifting, tighten your core muscles to stabilize your upper body. Then, when you need to rotate your body, pivot your feet instead of twisting your body. When you twist, the weight of your upper body combines with the weight you are lifting and adds four times the amount of pressure on your back. When you pivot your feet, you help avoid all of that added pressure on your body.
  • When you are at a residential, commercial or construction site, be cognizant of trash, scrap materials or uneven surfaces. Conduct a personal risk assessment; make sure your path is clear before you make the delivery; and discuss any hazards that need to be cleared with the customer.

Final thoughts

Working safely and avoiding injuries takes discipline. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and take shortcuts that can result in career-ending and costly injuries. It also requires management to understand that some working conditions may increase the time it takes to properly perform certain tasks.

And, while the propane industry is attracting younger professionals, it is still an aging industry. The average age of a bobtail driver is over 50 years old, resulting in long recovery times for those who get hurt. This not only increases costs and decreases profits for the business but also could lead to an inability to maintain family life such as seeing and hugging your spouse, kids or grandchildren. And that, my friends, would be tragic.

For more propane task-specific operations, I encourage everyone to get a copy of the Propane Education & Research Council’s program: “Propane Personal Safety: Techniques for Injury Prevention in the Propane Industry.”

Stuart Flatow spent 18 years as the Propane Education & Research Council’s vice president of safety and training before stepping down in February 2019. 

NOTE: The opinions and viewpoints expressed herein are solely the author’s and should in no way be interpreted as those of LP Gas magazine or any of its staff members.

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