The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Danger - Walking

Graham Marshall - Sunday, April 17, 2011

A recent study (Bakken et al, 2002) showed that over one million Americans visit a hospital each year as a result of falling on stairs.

Furthermore, 4,000 of those US citizens die each year as a result of those falls.

That number is about the same as the number of American pedestrians killed in collisions with vehicles.

It is twice the number of citizens killed in motor-cycle accidents.

Funnily enough (or ironically if you like), present day US building codes for stair risers (the vertical height of the stair) and depth of tread (the horizontally width of the stair) are based on a formula proposed by Frenchman, Francois Blondel in 1670.

Blondel based his formula on the stride-distance and foot-size of the average Frenchman living in the 1660s.

So US building codes for stairs are based on information that's almost 350 years old!

Even odder, for today's building codes, is that Blondel used a measurement known as "Royal Inches" which differ significantly from what we today consider to be the length of a modern inch.

So the fact that Frenchmen in the middle of the 1600s were a different size to modern Americans and the fact that the measurements used to define the ideal stair riser are so out-dated probably has something to do with all this harm!
Source: Bakken, Cohen, Hyde and Abele (2002).  Slips, Trips and Mis-steps and their Consequences.

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Gangway safety

Graham Marshall - Sunday, April 24, 2011
Last week I blogged about the relative danger of 'walking' as an activity occuring in homes and workplaces.  You may recall that I mentioned that nearly 4,000 United States citizens die each year as a result of falls on steps and stairs.

Well, today I'm posting an incident investigation which shows a recent example of the potential for harm when the risk associated with steps and stairs are not managed appropriately.

This 'fall from height' incident occured when a ship worker attempted to jump one-metre to the ground from an ill-placed ships gangway. 

See the three pictures and review the incident investigation checklist below.

This picture shows the general position of the gangway.


Here you can see that the gangway ends about 1 metre short of the wharf.


In attempting to jump from the gangway, the injured person's foot became entangled in lines and netting causing him to fall face forward onto the wharf below.


To review the completed incident investigation checklist, simply click here.

To view the Australian Code of Practice on falls, click here.
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