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Jay W. Preston, CSP, PE, CMIOSH, President and CEO

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Jay W. Preston, CEO

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You all know that I am a consulting safety engineer, accident investigator, accident preventer, and expert witness. That is my business, and I like to think that I am very good at what I do.

I am also a "heel dragger" when I walk, so I am extremely adept at finding nearly invisible tripping hazards in walking and working surfaces, often unintentionally. For that reason I try to be particularly alert and aware as I move through three dimensional space.

Fortunately, I am in very good physical shape (round is a shape), and I have amazing reaction time (Tested: off the motorcycle throttle and onto the brake in 110 milliseconds). These factors have saved me a lot of grief.

On December 19, 2010, I experienced two events that could have easily been fatal or critically disabling to a lesser physical specimen.

Event One:

On the way across the flat, concrete-paved pool deck after my usual morning half mile swim, I experienced a full on, flat out, classic, slip and fall. It couldn’t have been more classic. My right foot began to slip forward, the left followed, my body rotated, and I wound up flat on my back on the pavement. I came down flat, all parts hitting at once. It was the epitome of the banana peel fall that is probably the only bit of accuracy depicted in the movies.

Fortunately, my head did not hit at all (inertially resisting rotation to horizontal), and my only injury was a bruise to my right wrist and a couple of scratches from my watch band.

So what can we learn from this?

Even sand-finished concrete can be dangerously slippery when it is wet and contaminated.

Where it doesn’t rain enough to keep things squeaky clean, be on the alert for resin, smog, ash, and oils that might be washed out of trees and onto otherwise non-slippery surfaces.

Event Two:

I went to the theater to see a Broadway style production of "The 1940s Radio Hour" and the lobby is separated from the auditorium by ramped hallways. One of the hallways had a two-riser stairway about mid way through it. The stairway had handrails, the requisite contrasting nose stripes, and they were substantially lit.

I was distracted by the crowd and the lady handing out programs. I did not see the steps, and I proceed to step off into space with my right foot. The impact was lessened by my right heel slipping off the tread nose as it slammed onto the lower landing. I did not stumble further because my big foot made a pretty good landing pad, and I landed squarely on it without breaking an ankle.

I should point out that the ramping of the hall reduced the visual cue that the people ahead were lower, as they would have been if there had been only a ramp.

So what can we learn from this?

Where a view of the floor is restricted by crowds or compromised by distracting visual targets, short flights of stairs are to be avoided (as in the NFPA Life Safety and Fire Codes relating to exits) or watched out for.

A similar event (with only one riser) almost killed Castro a few years back.

We can also infer that Preston is a klutz. But remember that there is always a reason for a fall.

It should be all our business to prevent falls by eliminating obstacles and providing adequate slip resistance.

Copyright 2000 - 2011, Jay W. Preston.  Distribution permission granted when this notice is printed in full.  For questions or comments: contact  The J-P, Plus Design and SAFETYBIZ. are registered service marks of Jay William Preston. Permission for use of specific Safety Subject Information is only granted when this notice is printed in full and Preston has been contacted by phone, fax, or email prior to use.