Every parent knows what it’s like to hear a steady stream of “whys” from a young child. Even though the relentless questioning is sometimes frustrating, it’s a good reminder that regularly asking “why” can be useful, especially when addressing things like the causes of slips, trips, and falls.In the last 10 years, Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) has paid $24 million in claims for slips, trips, and falls in North America. Ultimately, these claims can end up increasing the insurance premium paid by local conferences, which impacts ministry. But what caused these claims? It comes down to the “why”—the original cause of the risk event and why that circumstance occurred.
Identifying the CausesThere are many situations that can cause slips, trips, and falls, including but not limited to:
- use of inappropriate footwear
- cables stretched across walkways
- loose matting
- walkway surfaces that are in disrepair
- weather-related conditions, like rain, snow, or ice
- open desk or cabinet drawers
- highly polished surfaces or floors that do not allow for adequate footwear traction
PreventionAs church leaders and members, we need to exercise extra caution and put our emphasis on the controls needed to help prevent slips, trips, and falls. Here are some tips:
- Wear appropriate footwear for the season.
- Cleanliness is next to godliness: keep floor surfaces clean and dry.
- Ensure all floor mats are well secured.
- Maintain clear aisles and passageways.
- Post wet floor caution signs in and around wet floor areas.
- Ensure handrails are fully secured and screws are firmly tightened.
- Verify walkway surfaces are in good condition.
- Eliminate uneven floor surfaces, and clearly mark uneven surfaces until they can be repaired.
- Report and clean up spills immediately.
- Minimize trip hazards.
- Provide adequate lighting in all areas.
- Set standards for types of footwear to be worn, especially in schools.
- Keep loose wires, like microphone cords or hoses, out of the way.
- Train members, volunteers, or students to take shorter, more vertical steps in tricky spots.
- Place signs indicating no running and reminders to keep eyes on the path.
- Verify baptismal pools have handrails and steps with non-slip surfaces.
A good preventative maintenance program not only helps prevent injuries and other losses, but it also helps minimize costly downtime of vehicles or equipment, and it prevents loss of the use of facilities when interior ceilings, fixtures, and equipment are damaged by leaks.
A preventative maintenance plan begins with the following steps:
- Develop an inventory of your buildings, building components, and property, including roofs, gutters, siding, windows, flooring/surfaces, parking lots, etc. Also, complete the maintenance normally required to help ensure equipment or components will meet or exceed their potential life expectancy. This maintenance information is generally available from manufacturers.
- Develop inspection and maintenance schedules for property and equipment. Base these schedules on the life expectancy and maintenance requirements for each item. Keep in mind that local codes and standards may determine the inspection schedule for some items, such as fire protection systems.
- Follow the maintenance plan with good recordkeeping. If someone falls down your stairs, lawyers may want to see your inspection and maintenance records. Be sure to keep them up to date and accurate.
Planning for Your Preventative Maintenance ProgramAssign responsibility for the program to ensure its success. In a church or school, facilities maintenance may be the safety officer’s responsibility. That individual may also monitor safety of the church by conducting inspections and filling out the Self-Inspection Forms semi-annually. In schools and larger institutions, several departments may be responsible for different program elements. Schools should also refer to ARM’s School Self-Inspection Form.
Be sure to budget for your preventative maintenance program. Knowing the service requirements and life expectancy of facilities and equipment can help you forecast when preventive maintenance or replacement is needed so you can budget accordingly.
A safety officer can be a key part of helping a church or school stay focused on mission and avoid unforeseen pitfalls or other calamities that distract from their goals. This key role works with the church leadership team across ministry functions to educate and implement important risk management procedures to avoid or control risks. They can develop and implement various risk management plan components such as the self-assessment and seasonal maintenance planning.
Our ministry is to protect your ministry. Let us all partner together to ensure our churches, schools, and organizations are safe from accidents that we can and should prevent.
- National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) at www.NFSI.org
- National Safety Council, Injury Fact 2019 ® Edition at www.nsc.org
- ANSI/ASSE A1264. 1-2017 Safety Requirements For Workplace Walking/Working Surfaces And Their Access; Workplace, Floor, Wall And Roof openings; Stairs And Guardrail/Handrail Systems
Image Credits: ronstik-stock.adobe.com