Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention for Mining

NIOSH researchers are actively working to help mining companies reduce slip, trip, and fall hazards in their work environments. The NIOSH Mining Program is currently conducting two research projects related to slips, trips, and falls:

This page provides recommendations and resources for preventing slips, trips, and falls in mining.

What are Slips, Trips, and Falls?

slip stick figure
Slip: 
A slip occurs when the foot unintentionally slides on a walking or working surface.

trip stick figure
Trip:
A trip occurs when the foot gets caught on an object or obstruction while walking.

fall stick figure
Fall:
Slips and trips can lead to falls, as can other hazards in the mining environment. Falls can occur to the same level or to a lower level.

Background

Slip, trip, and fall hazards in mining environments pose safety risks to mine workers. According to an analysis by NIOSH researchers of MSHA data, about 21% of all non-fatal injuries reported in the 5 years between 2012 and 2016 to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) were associated with slips or falls. Slips or falls are the second largest category of reportable non-fatal injuries in the mining industry, second only to handling materials. Each slip or fall injury can lead to an average of 60 lost work days. Slip, trip, and fall hazards can also lead to fatal incidents. Between 2006 and 2015, slips or falls accounted for 55 or approximately 11% of all mining fatalities.

 Top of Page

Preventing Fall Fatalities

Falls from heights are the leading contributor to fatal incidents. Laborers, equipment operators, mechanics/maintenance workers, and truck drivers are the most common victims. Performing maintenance and repair tasks, daily operations, and installation/construction/dismantling are common activities at the time of a fatality. Some specific recommendations to help prevent fall from height fatalities, based on NIOSH's hierarchy of controls, is shown in the “Hierarchy of hazard controls” figure.

Hierarchy of hazard controls: Recommendations to prevent falls from height fatalities based on NIOSH's hierarchy of controls.

Hierarchy of hazard controls: Recommendations to prevent falls from height fatalities based on NIOSH's hierarchy of controls.

Want more information?

 Top of Page

Preventing Slips and Falls from Mobile Equipment

Fueling station hazards: Uneven ground, ruts, rocks, and hoses around a fueling station that pose a slips and fall hazard.

Fueling station hazards: Uneven ground, ruts, rocks, and hoses around a fueling station that pose a slips and fall hazard.

Slips and falls from mobile equipment has been an area of research focus for the past few years. Large trucks (haul trucks), loaders, and dozers were the three pieces of mobile equipment most commonly associated with slips or falls. In addition, nearly 50% of the injuries occurred during ingress and egress and approximately 25% during maintenance.

For haul trucks, 26% of non-fatal injuries related to haul trucks were due to slips or falls, with nearly half occurring during egress, about a quarter during ingress, and 16% during maintenance and repair. Slips and falls from haul trucks were most often due to the foot slipping. In addition, nearly 45% of non-fatal injuries were caused by the operator being struck against an object and about two thirds of the time the struck against injury occurred while driving.

For wheeled front-end loaders, more injuries occurred during egress as compared to ingress. Slips were the most common cause of the incident, which can be caused by contaminants like water, ice or snow, and mud on the equipment. Stepping on rocks, stepping down onto uneven ground such as ruts and holes, and objects on the ground like hoses and pipes also contribute to ingress and egress injuries (some examples are shown in the “Fueling Station Hazards” figure). Equipment failure and unexpected movement also contributed to the wheeled front-end loader injuries.

Based on the above research and best practices from the industry, NIOSH has developed a list of recommendations for the design of safe mobile equipment access areas. The “Mobile equipment access area” figure shows a preview of these recommendations in an interactive format.

Mobile equipment access area: Best practices for the design of safe mobile equipment access areas as an interactive image.

Mobile equipment access area: Best practices for the design of safe mobile equipment access areas as an interactive image.

  • Provide designated parking areas free of hazardous ground conditions.
  • Ensure consistent rung heights from the ground level, through the ladder, and to the cab.
  • Ensure that adequate handholds are provided along the length of the ladder and into the cab.
  • Construct ingress/egress platforms with stairs that allow operators to access the cab of the equipment without using ladders.
  • Provide housekeeping supplies at a designated and marked location in the parking area to allow workers to remove contaminants from the equipment.
  • Provide at least 22-43 lux or 2-4 foot-candles of uniform illumination (measured using a lux meter) to improve detection of hazardous ground or ladder conditions.
  • Regularly and thoroughly inspect and maintain ingress/egress systems on mobile equipment.
  • Always maintain three points of contact when using ladders and fall protection when working at heights.

Want more information?

 Top of Page

Selection and Use of Grated Metal Walkways

Grated metal walkways are common in the mining industry, especially along conveyors and around fixed equipment. A NIOSH laboratory investigation found that slips occurred on grated metal walkways at inclinations as low as 10° when the walkways were artificially contaminated. Hence, it is importation to consider the type of grated metal walkway material used for walkways. Some recommendations based on an investigation of grated metal walkways are listed below.

Grated metal walkway materials tested: Diamond weave, showed the best performance for preventing slips when wet. The circular perforated pattern and serrated rectangular bar both resulted in slips starting at a 10° inclination when the surface was wet.

Grated metal walkway materials tested: Diamond weave (left), showed the best performance in preventing slips when wet. The circular perforated pattern (center) and serrated rectangular bar (right) both resulted in slips starting at a 10° inclination when the surface was wet.

  • Diamond weave grating provides significantly better slip-protection compared to serrated bar and perforated gratings when dry or wet.
  • Avoid inclinations over 10° when slippery conditions may exist.

Want more information?

 Top of Page

Fixed and Extension Ladder Safety

Using the Ladder Safety App: The Ladder Safety App being used to position an extension ladder.

Using the Ladder Safety App: The Ladder Safety App being used to position an extension ladder.

Extension ladders should be positioned at such an angle that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is about 1/4 the working length of the ladder (OSHA Quick Card: Portable Ladder Safety). The NIOSH Division of Safety Research identified that the main cause of falls from extension ladders were the ladder base slipping out, ladders tipping, workers slipping while on ladders or transitioning from a ladder to a surface at height, and mechanical failures. Research indicated that using a multimodal angle indicator (both visual and auditory) to help position extension ladders led to a more accurate position as compared to standing at the base of the extension ladder with toes against the rails and holding the ladder rungs with the arms outstretched horizontally. Using a multimodal indicator to help position ladders also significantly decreased ladder positioning time. To aid with ladder positioning, the NIOSH Division of Safety Research has developed a mobile application, (Ladder Safety App), which helps identify the correct angle at which to position an extension ladder and improves extension and step ladder safety. The “Using the Ladder Safety App” image show the app being used to position an extension ladder.

An analysis of MSHA data indicated that over 120 mine workers are injured per year due to falls from ladder. A NIOSH review of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards yielded a few simple steps that mine workers can take when using ladders to prevent falls. These steps are listed below and available in the Steps to Ladder Safety infographic.

  • Wear safe shoes: Wear shoes that have heels with a defined front edge.
  • Remove contaminants: Clean debris, mud, ice, or grease from the ladder and from gloves and shoes.
  • Inspect the ladder: Check the ladder for defects such as broken, loose, or bent parts before climbing.
  • Face the ladder: Face the ladder when climbing up and down.
  • Climb and descend carefully: Never jump from a ladder or climb more than one rung at a time.
  • Maintain three points of contact: When climbing, don’t carry anything in your hands. Use a backpack or shoulder strap for tools and personal items.

Want more information?

 Top of Page

Illumination and Cap Lamps for Underground Mining

Saturn LED light: Area light for roof bolters, designed by NIOSH, that improve trip hazard detection and reduces glare.

Saturn LED light: Area light for roof bolters, designed by NIOSH, that improve trip hazard detection and reduces glare.

Detection and avoidance of hazards is best when there’s sufficient illumination without creating glare and distractions. NIOSH has developed two LED-based luminaires or lights for underground mines that can help improve the detection of trip hazards and reduce glare when compared to incandescent cap lamps. In a study conducted at NIOSH, LED-based cap lamps enabled detection of hazards on average 0.96 seconds or 13.6% faster than incandescent cap lamps. In addition, NIOSH has developed a Saturn LED area light that can improve trip hazard detection and reduce glare around roof bolters as compared to existing bolter lighting.

Want more information?

 Top of Page

Footwear and Work Boots

A preliminary analysis from NIOSH footwear research indicates no differences in toe clearances when ascending stairs using hiker-style safety toe boots with metatarsal guards as compared to hiker-style safety toe boots without the metatarsal guards. This indicates the risk of trips, due to getting the toe caught, does not increase when wearing metatarsal boots when ascending stairs.

Want more information?

 Top of Page

Easy-to-use information

  • Infographics: Single-page fliers/posters to provide guidance to mining companies and mine workers to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
  • Stickers: A graphic to help remind mine workers to report hazards, repair hazards, and revisit the areas to  prevent slips, trips, and falls. 
  • Interactive web graphic: An interactive website to provide guidance to mining companies on the design of safe mobile equipment access areas.
  • Simple solutions booklet: Examples of how to reduce exposure to risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders and slips, trips, and falls.
  • ErgoMine: A mobile app to help you conduct an ergonomic audit at the mine site.
  • Ladder Safety App: A mobile app that helps you correctly position an extension ladder and provides information on extension ladder safety. 

Other resources

 Top of Page


Page last reviewed: 7/27/2018 Page last updated: 5/9/2019