How to Avoid Slips, Trips, and Falls at Your Veterinary Practice

It is often said that, “safety doesn’t happen by accident.” How many times have you been a part of or witnessed a workplace accident? Probably more than you’d care to admit. Even with the shifting landscape, our veterinary hospitals will never be without people, and where there’s people, there will always be accidents. 

Slips, trips and falls are some of the most frequently occurring workplace injuries and often the top reason for worker’s compensation claims. No matter your position within the hospital, all staff members are at risk for this type of injury. To further define each injury, a slip is when someone loses the connection of their footing to the ground due to a slippery or interfering substance. This can include:

  • Saliva from a drooling dog
  • Water from weather outside, from a leaking dental unit, splashes from a sink, drinking water spilled from a bottle etc. 
  • Spilled or dribbled solutions, such as ear cleaner, floor soap or disinfectant etc. 
  • Paper lying on the floor

A trip happens when a hazard stops the feet or legs of someone from moving, causing the body to continue forward. This is most often seen when there are foot traffic barriers such as:

  • Boxes stored within a walkway
  • A dog on a leash too long from the attachment
  • Uneven walking surfaces, such as rugs or steps
  • Cluttered floors

A fall is the motion of losing one’s balance and the body being pulled down to the ground by gravity, and is often the result of a slip or trip.

Preventing slips, trips, and falls in the workplace is essential for maintaining a safe environment. Here are several strategies you can implement:

  1. Cleanliness and Maintenance:

    • Keep floors clean and free from spills, debris, or obstacles.
    • Regularly inspect and maintain floors, stairs, and walkways.
    • Repair any uneven surfaces, loose tiles, or damaged flooring promptly.

  2. Appropriate Signage:

    • Use warning signs or barriers to highlight wet or slippery floors.
    • Clearly mark any changes in elevation or potential hazards.

  3. Good Housekeeping Practices:

    • Encourage employees to keep their work areas tidy and organized.
    • Store materials and equipment properly when not in use.

  4. Proper Footwear:

    • Encourage or enforce the use of appropriate footwear with good traction.
    • Discourage wearing footwear that might increase the risk of slipping.

  5. Training and Awareness:

    • Educate employees about the risks of slips, trips, and falls.
    • Conduct training on how to identify and report hazards.
    • Promote a safety-conscious culture where everyone is responsible for maintaining a safe environment.

  6. Lighting and Visibility:

    • Ensure adequate lighting in all areas of the workplace to improve visibility.
    • Replace bulbs promptly and address any areas with poor lighting.

  7. Safety Equipment:

    • Provide non-slip mats or rugs in areas prone to spills or moisture.
    • Install handrails on staircases and ensure they are sturdy and well-maintained.

  8. Regular Inspections:

    • Conduct regular inspections of the workplace to identify and address potential hazards.
    • Encourage employees to report any safety concerns or potential risks they notice.

Despite the cause, each of these injuries can be prevented to protect everyone in the workplace, including management, veterinary staff, and clients. It is both the employer’s and employee’s responsibility to be trained to recognize, avoid and remove unsafe conditions.