Learning to Walk on a Slippery Surface Simulator

by Chris Martin on December 20, 2014

What’s the most effective way to avoid getting hurt in a slip-and-fall accident? Easy. Stay away from slippery surfaces.

But what if that isn’t a feasible option?

Maybe your office building has slick tile or marble floors that can cause you to lose your footing; or there aren’t enough floor mats to keep moisture off of the floors. Or perhaps you work outdoors in all types of weather and are often forced to walk in places covered by snow or ice. In these cases, what’s the best response to that question?

Every step is fraught with peril.

There is one piece of equipment that can help provide some answers. It’s called the Slippery Surface Simulator.

What The Heck is a Slippery Surface Simulator?

This apparatus has a fairly simple design: two parallel frames connected overhead by a 15 to 20-foot long rail. There’s a roller on this rail that attaches to a harness, and a slippery tile surface runs underneath it from one frame to another. The idea is for a person to walk along the slippery surface while wearing the harness that can catch them if they start to fall.

As the name implies, the goal of the Slippery Surface Simulator is to mimic the conditions of walking on a slick surface without the danger of falling. Participants are first instructed to try walking with their normal gait, which usually results in them losing their balance. After receiving instruction on how to properly navigate a slippery surface, they are invited to try again using those techniques. So the Slippery Surface Simulator allows people to get the feeling of trying to walk correctly on a slick surface in a safe environment that prevents them from getting injured while they learn.

A UPS employee being trained on the Slippery Surface Simulator.

Employers Reaping Rewards of Slippery Surface Simulator

Perhaps the largest company that has availed itself of the Slippery Surface Simulator is United Parcel Service. Since UPS drivers can deliver more than 100 packages a day, they do a great deal of walking – often on slick floors or in poor weather conditions. The company said that 30% of its employees fell down during their first year on the job. After implementing a training program using the Slippery Surface Simulator, UPS says that it greatly exceeded its goal of reducing first-year falls by 15% to 20%.

Another company which benefited from this training is National Grid, a utility which serves customers in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Many of its employees must perform maintenance, conduct repairs, or read meters in all types of weather conditions. So National Grid obtained its own Slippery Surface Simulator to train its workers on avoiding slip-and-fall accidents? It worked – in each of the three years prior to using the simulator, the company saw about 160 falls; but that number plunged to 88 in the year that the training began.

What Can a Slippery Surface Simulator Teach Us?

Even if your company cannot afford to utilize or purchase a Slippery Surface Simulator, you can still embrace the concepts taught by instructors who conduct this type of training. When walking in environments which may contain slippery surfaces:

  • Keep your weight evenly distributed over the center of your body.
  • Bring your legs closer together.
  • Bend your knees slightly.
  • Take smaller steps.
  • Keep your foot flat as you lift it up and place it down when taking each step.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Don’t succumb to distractions which may cause you to lose your balance.
  • Anticipate potential trouble before or while walking on slick surfaces.
  • Don’t panic if you start to lose your balance; instead, stop and regain your footing before continuing.
This kind of misfortune can ruin your day.

Slip-and-fall accidents can result in lost work hours, significant pain and discomfort, and increased medical costs. Knowing how to walk properly on slippery surfaces will go a long way toward preventing these types of mishaps.

Image credit #2: Virginia Tech University

Written by Chris Martin

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