Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries at the worksite and at home. They can cause minor injuries, such as a twisted ankle. They can also cause serious injuries such as a fracture, a severe head injury, or a back or neck injury that involves spinal cord damage. Falls can result from simple things such as tripping on a curb. They can also result from more dramatic situations such as tumbling down a flight of stairs or sliding off a roof. You donít have to fall from a height to be injured. Slipping on level ground can cause serious injury when you land.

In North America, falls account for 5 deaths each year for every 100,000 people. The National Safety Council reports that in the U.S. alone, over 8,500 deaths occur every year from falls in or around the home. And for every fatality, many are injured. Seniors are more likely to be injured in falls than any other age group.

Help prevent falls by practicing good housekeeping and by taking care on stairs, in the bathtub, on ladders, and on ice and snow.

Good Housekeeping
Good housekeeping can greatly reduce the chance of falls. If you notice things that someone might trip over, pick them up immediately. Wipe up spills; a slippery floor is a dangerous floor. Flatten out any carpet with a fold in it; this is enough to trip someone up. Keep the hallways and main pathways of your house clear. This is also important in case of a fire. Even in the yard, make sure you practice good housekeeping habits. Pick up childrenís toys and your tools. Someone can twist or break an ankle just by stepping on an uneven part of the lawn.

As a paramedic I have often been called out to attend to someone whoís fallen on the stairs and been seriously hurt. Often the cause of a serious fall on the stairs is misjudging the end of the stair.

A few things to keep in mind about stair safety:

One man I attended to fell down three stairs in front of his house on his way to work. The stairs were unsafe, and the man tripped and fell when he stepped on a rotten board and broke through it. The fall broke his neck and damaged his spinal cord. He was paralyzed. His wife said he had meant to fix those stairs for the past month.

Fiberglass and porcelain shower floors and bathtubs become even more slippery when wet. This is why so many people injure themselves when in the tub.

When showering or bathing, remember:

Ladders are useful tools. We use them for painting, cleaning gutters (eaves troughs), washing windows, and putting the angel on top of the Christmas tree. But without the proper safety precautions, using them can be dangerous. When purchasing a ladder, make sure youíre buying one that is appropriate for the job. Donít use a 4-foot ladder for a job requiring a 6-foot ladder. Make sure the ladder is strong enough to support your weight. When using extension ladders try to have someone hold the ladder steady while youíre on it. In winter, there might be slippery surfaces; make sure the base of the ladder is in a safe position so it wonít slide when youíre on it. Avoid setting the ladder up on ice.

General tips

A man was cleaning leaves from his roof gutter. He leaned over the side of the ladder to reach the last two feet of gutter. He lost his balance and fell, landing on his back on a picket fence. The damage to his spinal cord caused paralysis from approximately four inches below his mid-chest to his toes.

Using a step ladder

Using an extension ladder

Two fire fighters were on a ladder when they opened up the nozzle of the fire hose. The force from the water pouring from the hose pushed the men back, tipping the ladder over. One fire fighter broke his arm as a result. (The ladder may not have been at the proper angle.)

Itís difficult to work on a roof. If you own a house, you might go up on the roof several times a year. You might need to clean the eaves troughs (rain gutters), fix the chimney, adjust the antenna, put up Christmas lights or replace shingles. You might also need to check the roof for leaks before winter. Roof work can be dangerous if you ignore proper safety precautions. If you fall you can be injured or killed. When you work on a roof, how can you protect yourself from falling? There is no easy answer. Safety precautions and the right equipment can help.

Remember these safety tips if you plan to work on a roof:

This information was taken from the book, ďI Wonít be in to Work Today - Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and PlayĒ by Martin Lesperance. To order this book or to find out more information, go to www.safete.com and click on books and products. Sign up for his free safety newsletter at www.safete.com. Martin is a fire fighter/paramedic whose humorous talks stress that safety should be a twenty-four hour concern.

Copyright 1997 Safety Health Publishing Inc.

Martin Lesperance is a fire fighter/paramedic and is the author of the best selling book "I Wonít be in to Work Today Ė Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and Play" . Martin delivers keynote presentations dealing with injury prevention. His talks are funny, but still have a strong underlying message. Visit his website at www.safete.com