Footwear + surface = trip-and-fall injury

by on December 16, 2010 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

“So Peggy Frost fell down the stairs?” Safety Director Charles D’Antonio asked.

“Partway down,” supervisor Gina Davies replied. “She crashed against the wall and came to a stop on the landing.”

“Did she trip, or what?” Charles asked.

“She says her right shoe got caught in the carpet at the top of the stairs just as she was starting down, and she stumbled,” Gina said.

Workers comp
“Was she hurt?” Charles asked. “The last thing we need around here is another workers’ comp injury.”

“Well, she went to the hospital, and the next day her right hand and arm were all swollen up. She’s still in a lot of pain, and her doctor says she can’t work for at least two weeks.”

“Hmm,” Charles said. “Is that carpet tacked down properly? Did Peggy trip on a piece that was sticking up?”

The wrong shoes?
“I don’t think so,” Gina said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. “But what it might have been, is Peggy’s shoes.”

“What do you mean?” Charles asked.

“She and some of the other girls wear those foam clogs, the ones with the rounded ends,” Gina said. “They say the clogs are real comfortable. And I’ve encouraged them to wear the most comfortable shoes they can find, because they’re on their feet so much.”

“But one or two of the girls have complained about how the carpet ‘reaches up and catches’ their shoetips, especially when they’re walking briskly,” Gina went on. “I’ve told them to be careful, but maybe that’s what happened to Peggy. I’ll ask when I call her at home tomorrow.”

“OK,” Charles said. “Let me know exactly what Peggy says happened. We’ll probably have to deal with a comp claim.”

In the event, the company contested Peggy’s workers comp claim, arguing that her personal choice of shoes caused the accident and so it wasn’t a result of her work.

Did the company win?

The decision
No. The workers comp tribunal ruled that Peggy’s work had contributed to her injury, and she was entitled to compensation.

The company couldn’t say the accident was unrelated to work because supervisor Gina:

  • had advised employees to wear comfortable shoes like the ones Peggy was wearing when she tripped, and
  • knew the clogs at issue had caused employees to stumble on the carpet, but failed to talk to them about finding comfortable shoes that were safer.

Here are some points to consider in prescribing/advising employees about footwear:

  • If non-slip footwear is needed, look for durable, thick tread, with ridges to head off slippage.
  • Make sure employees wear shoes that won’t easily come off. Footwear should have a back to grip the heel and should fasten across the instep.
  • If employees must walk/work on hard surfaces like concrete, have them wear shoes with thick, insulating soles and shock-absorbing insoles.

Cite: Hannan v. Kaelin Dental Group, No. 08-035163, Mo. Labor & Industrial Relations Comm., 4/20/10.

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