In August we traveled to Chicago for business and also for family. One of the things we did was to attend a Church Carnival and I noted the safety procedures there regarding the public’s safety. Between the rides for our grandson and Beer and Brats for us, there were cables running everywhere and no one was tripping and falling because there were bridges over the cables which were quite sizeable and are placed there to stop a trip and fall injury.
OSHA refers the slips, trips and falls as STFs and they cost industry roughly $15.7 billion annually in costs and 15% of accidental deaths. STFs are caused by many factors and the carnival industry is under scrutiny of OSHA and local code enforcement everywhere in the USA. You would expect the inspectors to look at the machinery for safety but your safety walking around is just as important wherever you are.
Dry cleaners and laundries are subject to the rules in the OSHA publication 2209-02R which is the Small Business Handbook and it describes what compliance is and how to achieve it. Walking and working surfaces and STFs are part of their information. Of course, it describes what the General Duty Clause is that covers all regulations past and unwritten, which I have talked about in the past.
With winter approaching there will be changes in the cleaners plants that could eliminate the possibility of some STFs by removal of the portable fans (engineered controls) that are used for spot cooling purposes. I would say that about 90% of the fans we see in plants, the cords are running across the floor causing an STF hazard. Sometimes we see the collar cone with the cord exposed and in that case the cord cannot be dropped from the ceiling as recommended by electricians and code enforcement people. In the case of the cord that has to be on the floor we recommend a bridge like you see at the carnival and county fair that you may have attended this past summer.
I want to tell you what a STF can cost you if you do not already know. This happened at a dry cleaner we know and the settlement through the insurance company was $40,000.00, it could have gone higher because the limit of the policy was $100,000.00 so negotiations were important to the case, other than the monetary cost of a trip on a cord by an employee? ACL repair can cost lots of money but a quick Google search yields an estimate of $6,500.00 to $11,000.00 and that is with insurance.
A two-year battle with the insurance company the employee’s lawyers and the employee herself took over two years and tons of documentation and personal time for the owner. I spoke with the owner who said that over that time period they spent about eight hours a week on the problem until it was solved. Documentation and meetings can be really difficult while still trying to run the business and tip toe around the plant while that person is STILL THERE, because you cannot fire an employee during the time they are bringing an action against the business. This does not include the amount of medication one has to take to settle the nerves, every week!
So now you know what a STF is and I will describe a remedy. Using 1 x 4s the length of the cord you have to have on the floor. Place two one by four inch boards on either side of the cord and duct tape around the both in 3 places; both ends and the middle it will rise ¾ inch from the floor and protect the cord and the plug as it will not move all over the floor and cause the cord to roll over when stepped on. You could paint them Safety Yellow like the other hazard marings in your building. This is a simple solution and not costly. I do not recommend the cord protectors you find at office stores because they are not heavy enough to stay in place. Save a KNEE and a lot of problems with this type of problem. Walking and working surfaces are also to be considered but that is another story. There are many ways to prevent STF injuries and the guidelines again are in the Small Business Handbook self-evaluation pages