An online photo gallery published by the New York Daily News shows pedestrians slipping, sliding, and falling on the snowy, slushy, icy roads and sidewalks in New York City. Another series of photos published by the Daily Mail shows Christmas shoppers falling on an escalator in London.
These photos are supposed to be humorous, but in reality, slip-and-fall accidents can be deadly serious for pedestrians and expensive for property owners.
The National Safety Council reports that falls are a leading cause of accidental injuries in the United States. Falls account for approximately 8.9 million visits to emergency departments annually and are the second leading cause of accidental deaths in homes and communities.
Slips and falls take place in all walks of life, and no place is without vulnerability.
Private homes, driveways, parking lots, parking garages, public restrooms, fitness centers and swimming pools are likely places for fall accidents to occur. People fall at shopping centers and grocery stores, in restaurants, bars and clubs and in arenas, stadiums and theatres. They also slip and fall at their workplaces, whether in office buildings or outdoor construction sites. Many older adults suffer injuries from falling in retirement or nursing homes.
There are six common factors that may cause slip and fall accidents:
No one can prevent bad weather, but property owners or their representatives have a duty to alleviate risks when bad weather strikes. Sidewalks in front of businesses and walkways leading to an entrance will become slick and hazardous if ice and snow are allowed to accumulate. Visitors may track in rain, snow and ice, creating slippery conditions near entrances and in foyers.
Uneven steps or floors
A vinyl floor with a crack or a dent, a carpet that buckles or has a small tear or pavement that slopes or is uneven may lead to a trip and fall. Pedestrians don’t expect these irregularities or may not see them before it is too late. Steps often shift or become uneven with age and become difficult to navigate. A tumble down a flight of stairs can cause serious injuries. If handrails are not installed, individuals have nothing to grab onto if they lose their balance or slip.
Objects lying in walkways pose dangers for pedestrians. Cords, debris, packages, wires, equipment or other items can cause tripping and falling and lead to injury.
Missing light bulbs, low lights or shadows can lead to accidents when pedestrians cannot see where they are walking. Poor lighting can also affect judgment and may cause an individual to miss steps on a staircase or trip over an uneven place on the floor or pavement or over an object lying in the pathway. When aisles, walkways and staircases are well lit, people can see potential hazards. Dim lighting or darkness can cause injuries from falling.
Moisture on floors can come from water tracked in on rainy or snowy days, water dripping off of umbrellas or raincoats and condensation. Floors may flood if a pipe backs up or breaks and causes a leak. Spilled liquids, grease or food can also create wet flooring. Freshly mopped or waxed floors may also leave slippery conditions.
Unsafe practices and safety violations
Construction areas may pose danger for workers or pedestrians. If construction workers do not observe safety practices, they may subject themselves and innocent people to dangerous conditions including shaky scaffolding, ladders propped up or lying in walkways, grease, holes in concrete or exposed soil, slippery mud, gaps in walkways, and elevated working surfaces.
Property owners or their employees are obligated to fix hazardous conditions as soon as they are discovered. Weather-related hazards and puddles caused by spills should be cleaned up in a timely way. Loose or damaged tiles, floorboards, carpets, mats and pavement must be fixed as soon as possible. Clutter and debris should be removed from the aisles of stores or walkways around buildings to allow pedestrians safe passage.
If the hazards persist, property owners or their employees should put up signs warning pedestrians to proceed with caution.