Monday, May 14, 2012

Risk Focus: Slips, trips and falls

UK P&I Club Loss Prevention Booklet

Slips, trips and falls represent nearly one in three of the large personal injury claims submitted to the Club and which aggregate to a staggering $155 m over the past ten years. They are constant too, with very little variation in numbers of claims from year to year.

It is easy to dismiss these unpleasant accidents as ‘human error’, or even ‘crew negligence’, but to examine
the detail of so many of them is to reveal other contributors to the chain of causation. Training could have been deficient or even completely missing, as there is often an assumption that people ‘can look after themselves’ and must take responsibility for their own actions. The environment, which is mostly a function of design, may well have been a contributor, if there was inadequate lighting, or the dangers were not obvious, or the particular design of the ship required people to put themselves ‘in hazard’ just to get a job done. And the procedures aboard ship may have been devised without proper consideration of the risks of carrying them out.

‘We have always done it this way!’ may be no guarantee that it will be the safest way, and may involve people in taking hazardous short cuts. But because of the huge costs of these claims, and because of the human suffering represented by each of them, the Club strongly believes that a concerted attack must be made on the incidence of slips, trip and falls. These are accidents which occur for a reason, and if we understand the reasons behind the existence of these hazards rather better, then we can put in place controls that will hopefully prevent accidents occurring, but will also mitigate their consequences.

A proactive and precautionary approach can be very useful in reducing the incidents of slips, trips and falls, in first of all identifying hazards which have the potential to hurt people. Very often accidents occur because nobody has considered that what they are doing might be hazardous. Just walking around the ship with a sharp eye and an open mind can help to identify features which might, in an unguarded moment, hurt people.

A Bow Tie has been developed highlighting that 'controls' that reduce the risk of slips trips and falls include:

* Adequate lighting
* Hazards/Obstructions identified/clearly marked
* Non-slip surfaces in place/maintained
* Appropriate footwear used
* Good housekeeping of working areas - oil/rubbish/equipment
* Access control - guardrails/wires etc
* Safety equipment in use - harness/nets etc

And mitigation to reduce the risk of a significant claim include:
* Accident reporting system
* Personal protective equipment
* Adequate first aid
* Evidence collection/retention
* Use of third party assistance

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