Slip and Trip Prevention in Aged Care Facilities

Slip and trip accidents are frighteningly common in aged care facilities, both among residents and staff. Victims can often blame themselves for the incident, feeling ‘silly’ or somehow at fault for not paying attention.

Because of this, many slips and trips don’t get reported, despite causing injury. Especially for the elderly, this can have dangerous consequences.

The good news is that slips and trips can often be prevented. According to Safe Work Australia, workplace slips, trips or falls were caused by environmental factors 56% of the time.

A robust prevention and action strategy can save staff from injury and time away from work, save residents from potentially life-threatening falls, and save aged care facilities from possible litigation.

At a minimum, an aged care slip and trip prevention plan should address:

Contaminants on the floor

These are the leading cause of slip, trip and fall incidents in healthcare facilities globally. Floor contaminant hazards can commonly occur around food service areas, soap dispensers, bathrooms, drinking fountains, and building entrances and exits.

Prevention measures include:

  • Using wet floor signs and barriers around wet areas
  • Determine what cleaning methods are appropriate for different areas and surfaces
  • Encouraging staff to cover, clean, or report spills promptly
  • Hanging spill pads, paper towel holders in convenient locations for use
  • Placing water-absorbent walk-off mats where water or soap may drip onto the floor
  • Choosing slip-resistant shoes for healthcare workers

Indoor walking surface irregularities

Warped, buckled or otherwise damaged flooring can cause staff and residents alike to stumble, trip, or fall.

Prevention measures include:

  • Replacing loose or buckled carpeting
  • Removing or repairing blistered vinyl flooring or tile
  • Reducing trip hazards over 1cm high in all areas of pedestrian travel
  • Highlighting changes in walkway elevation using yellow safety warning paint
  • Replacing smooth flooring in high slip risk areas with rough-surface flooring
  • Making sure elevator floors line up flush with hallway floors

Inadequate lighting

Dim lighting impairs vision and the ability to see hazards. Proper lighting allows employees and residents to see their surroundings and notice unsafe areas in time to avoid them. Hallways, parking areas, storage rooms, stairwells and walkways both indoors and outdoors are all common areas where lighting must be adequate.

Prevention measures include:

  • Ensure enough light fixtures are installed in poorly lit areas
  • Verify that light bulbs are appropriately bright - LED are a good choice for brightness and energy use
  • Upgrade light fixtures to ones that emit light from all sides

Stairs and handrails

This is a primary concern particularly for aged care facilities where residents are already facing mobility challenges. Proper construction and maintenance of stairs and handrails can reduce a large amount of slip, trip and fall incidents.

Stairs that are poorly marked or uneven, and handrails that are not of appropriate height or sturdiness can easily lead to missteps that cause staff and residents to fall.

Prevention measures include:

  • Create visual cues using yellow safety paint or tape to indicate changes in elevation
  • Make sure that stair treads are slip resistant, particularly in areas that are prone to wet patches
  • Ensure stairs are free of all contaminants including discarded objects
  • Add handrails at locations with less than 4 steps
  • Install handrails on both sides of stairwells
  • Consider installing a fixed fall protection barrier at the top of stairs

Clutter and poorly stored objects

Clutter can easily build up in storage areas, walkways, resident rooms, work areas, and hallways, potentially leading to a slip and trip incident. Exposed cords around medical equipment also creates a trip hazard for both staff and residents alike.

Prevention measures include:

  • Organising storage areas to eliminate clutter
  • Installing adequate shelving in residents rooms and staff stations
  • Keeping walkways and stairwells clear at all times
  • Using cord organisers to bundle medical equipment cords
  • Cover cords that run along the floor with a beveled protective cover or safety tape

Improper patient mobility aids

It’s important that residents can maintain their sense of independence by moving around the facility. However those with impaired mobility need to be supported by appropriate mobility aids that are of the right style, height and function for their needs. Having a walking frame, walking stick, or easily-accessible wheelchair can save patients from slipping and tripping.

Prevention measures include:

  • Fitting patients with the right type of cane - options include white (for the visually impaired), quad (with four feet that provide a wider base) or forearm canes that allow wider weight distribution from the wrist to arm.
  • Ensuring at-risk patients use a walker suited to their level of mobility support
  • Installing transfer aids such as hoists and patient movers to help residents get out of bed and on their feet safely
  • Maintaining a regular equipment maintenance program to ensure devices remain in optimal condition

Next steps

Maintaining a vigilant slip safety programme along with proper safety equipment can greatly reduce the slip and trip risk in aged care facilities. Keystone Healthcare have been providing aged care facilities across Australia with the right falls prevention equipment for decades.

We’re passionate about falls prevention and dedicated to matching facilities with the best equipment for their needs. To ensure your equipment meets your facility’s falls prevention needs, give us a call on 1300 547 877.