Preventing and Avoiding Falls

Released: 8/25/2017




Falls, slips and trips are second only to automobile accidents in causing personal injury, according to OSHA. Dr. William Martimucci, a WESTMED geriatric specialist, brings you advice on what you can do to reduce potential hazards.



Slips and trips frequently cause the falls that bring a patient to the doctor’s office.  Slips occur when there is too little friction between a person’s feet and the walking surface due to water, cleaning fluids, oil, ice and other slippery substances.  Always promptly clean up spills of slippery substances.  



Trips happen when a person’s foot contacts an object, and he/she is thrown off balance.  Some of the culprits are objects that protrude into your walkway—perhaps a piece of furniture or books or magazines stored low on a shelf.  Poor lighting and uneven walking surfaces also cause tripping. 



To protect yourself from injury, “an important first step is to do a home safety check,” said Dr. Martimucci.  Do your risk assessment from the following list: 



  • Keep appliance cords, lamp cords, and telephone cords out of walkways.
  • Don’t put cords under your carpets. It creates an uneven walking surface.
  • Arrange furniture so it doesn’t intrude on your usual path between rooms.
  • Get rid of throw rugs that do not have adhesive, nonskid backing. 
  • Replace only reachable light bulbs when they burn out. 
  • In the kitchen, use chairs with a stationary sitting surface, not rollers.



Next, avoid activities that are potentially hazardous and “that are beyond your physical abilities,” he said. For instance:



  • Don’t move furniture alone.
  • Don’t get up on ladders without someone to help you. “Many accidents happen when an elderly person climbs up a ladder by him or herself to get something off the top shelf of a closet,” Dr. Martimucci explained.   


Do “defensive walking.” Wear proper footwear to anticipate the condition of surfaces.


  • Minimize the risk of slips by wearing shoes with slip-resistant soles.
  • “Shoes need to fit well, feel good, and not hurt,” said Dr. Martimucci.  
  • Don’t wear high heels on ice and snow.
  • Stay strong, “keep walking, exercising and moving.”