Avoid Becoming A Slip/Trip or Fall Case Study

Help me! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!

Ah, we’ve all heard this line before, and it can result in injury, pain, insurance claims, and even lawsuits.

Slips, trips, and falls are real events that occur frequently and for a host of reasons, ranging from snow and ice, faulty railings, flooring issues, design flaws, carelessness, or even reckless behavior.

An insurance claim on a slip, trip, or fall can lead to expensive claims litigation, lost work time, and increased insurance and operating costs. It is vital that an investigation into the accident be completed to determine this possibility, and to gather facts as to the cause of the slip or fall.

Below are some case studies of slip and fall incidents and their causes. These scenarios will give insight into the types of accidents that can and do occur. This is precisely why it is so important to be aware of the surrounding environment and to take all precautions to avoid becoming a “case study.”

Case A – Background

A man is descending the interior stairs of a newly rented house when his foot slips and he grabs the handrail for support. The railing has been attached to the wall with drywall anchors, rather than screws or bolts into the frame, and pulls free of the wall. The man falls down the remaining seven steps, sustaining serious injuries. The property owner contends that the handrail was there as a personal convenience to provide some sense of stability, much like a cane or walking stick, and was never intended to support the full weight of a person.

Is he right?


Case A – The finding

The 1997 Uniform Building Code states, “The mounting of handrails shall be such that the completed handrail and supporting structure are capable of withstanding a load of at least 200 pounds applied in any direction at any point on the rail.” The intent and wording is clear that the handrail is a safety device. Earlier versions of the code have somewhat different wording that calculated the load based on the length of the railing. This standard applies to railings on balconies and decks as well. Note: it is also not safe to assume that the screws or fasteners provided by the railing or hardware manufacturer are adequate for the specific application.

Case B – Background

3239249059_6af8084f18_m1A short, elderly woman is attempting to enter the front door of her son’s apartment. A storm door has recently been added that swings outward over the 3’x3′ landing, which is eight inches below the doorsill. Because of her stature and the configuration of the entrance, the knob of the storm door is eye level. As she pulls the door open she has to back out of its way and falls off the edge of the landing (19 inches high), sustaining a serious injury.

What is the problem here?


Case B -The finding

The original design did not create a problem, as the front door opened into the interior; however, the add-on storm door now sweeps over the landing, leaving no safe place to stand. Although the UBC allows screen and storm doors to swing over stairs, steps, or landings, prudent design dictates that it can be operated in a safe manner.

Case C – Background

A window well, approximately 5 feet by 2 feet and 4-feet deep, has been covered with a commercial steel grate – the type heavily advertised in newspapers. To reach the panes while washing the window above the well, the owner of the home stepped onto the grate. At that point, the grate slid under the siding, pivoted slightly and fell into the well – with the owner still on it. A back injury and cuts from broken glass were sustained. The grate had recently been removed and replaced by a glass company repairing the lower window.

Who is to blame?


Case C – The finding

The problem was a flawed design and installation. The metal brackets supporting the grate did not hook over the well edge to prevent movement. As installed, this grate was an attractive hazard, giving the appearance of protection when, in fact, it was a dangerous trap. Sadly the problem could have been prevented for less than one dollar’s worth of material and labor. The glass repairer is not guilty, as she only put it back in place and could not be expected to see a design flaw.

Case D – Background

A tenant is walking along a sidewalk of an apartment complex midwinter in the Colorado mountains, when the tenant slips on ice and sustains multiple compound fractures to their right leg. The property manager had been aware that this area tended to accumulate ice, and as part of snow removal, made a point to clear this area when needed and apply salt to the sidewalk when necessary. The property manager’s employees had no specific memory of applying salt to the sidewalk the day of the accident. Weather data indicated no measurable snowfall within 48 hours.

Is the property manager to blame?


Case D – The finding

The freezing up of a storm drain line caused the ice on the sidewalk. Furthermore, a prudent architect or engineer should have specified in the original design for the drain to be heated. Had the drain been heated, the accident may have been avoided.

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