Pay special attention if working shipping and receiving areas or loading docks. These high traffic areas are often exposed and require excellent traction due to the added hazards of different levels, steep ramps, and/or steps. So, note if any steps, ramps, or elevated docks have missing guard rails.
Another hazard to look for is uneven surfaces. Very small changes in elevation can lead to a trip from a “stubbed” toe resulting in a fall. In fact the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires differences to be ¼" or less.2 If severe, yellow safety markings can be used to temporarily draw attention to the change in levels.
Since most forensic investigators do not strictly work 8 to 5 and activities can take place before and after daylight hours, it is imperative to evaluate your lighting. It is highly recommended that a good quality light and a backup be carried to every scene. I know this goes without saying, but we have to cover all the bases.
Continuing our inspection indoors we encounter every variety of space such as offices, residences, workshops, and everything in between. Just note the floor surfaces and remember that surface traction and the hazards vary with the intended use.
Housekeeping issues are the number one reason for trips and falls indoors. Therefore, take note of clutter and try keeping floors and walkways clear for all areas you will be working at the crime scene. Look around for stray or inappropriate cords such as extension cords, computer or phone cables and photograph anything you need to reroute or move for safety. Pay attention to floor mats, throw rugs, and carpet and take extra care where floor surfaces change, for example where carpet meets tile or other flooring as these are where trips are most likely.
Taking a few minutes to survey and inspect your crime scene will go a long way in preventing slips, trips, and falls. Given the alternatives of injury, possible time away from work, and the costs associated with workman’s compensation, it is hard to argue against taking a little extra time to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities. Washington, D.C. http://stats.bls.gov/iif/home.htm
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), U.S. Department of Justice. 1990 http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/
- ANSI A1264.1-1995 Safety Requirements for Workplace Floor and Wall Openings, Stairs and Railing Systems, American National Standards Institute, Washington, D.C. 1995
- ANSI A1264.2-2001 Standard for the Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking/Working Surfaces, American National Standards Institute,Washington, D.C. 2001
- Walking and Working Surfaces, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Health and Safety Administration,Washington, D.C. 1998
Vince McLeod is an American Board of Industrial Hygiene Certified Industrial Hygienist and the senior IH with the University of Florida’s Environmental Health and Safety Division. He has 22 years of experience in all facets of occupational health and safety and specializes in conducting exposure assessments and health hazard evaluations.