Head Off Human And Hoof Hydroplaning On The Farm

Mud, manure and wet farm surfaces cost agriculture up to $50 billion a year in often preventable slips and falls.

Published on: Mar 1, 2012

Over-the-road vehicles aren't the only things subject to hydroplaning. Slips and falls by humans and farm animals cost more than $50 billion a year in medical costs, according to one insurance industry estimate.

When shoe rubber doesn't meet the road or concrete, "It just happens," you say? Yes, but much of it is preventable, asserts Dennis Murphy, Penn State University ag engineer and farm safety expert.

Dairy barns, greenhouses and mushroom-growing facilities are all susceptible to continual wet floor conditions where workers are prone to dangerous hydroplaning every day. And improving the coefficient of friction (COF) between the floor and footwear – or hoof – is the key.

CHECK YOUR TREAD DEPTH: Make sure you and your employees have shoe tread with plenty of traction. Dont run on "baldies".
CHECK YOUR TREAD DEPTH: Make sure you and your employees have shoe tread with plenty of traction. Don't run on "baldies".

Some floor surfaces are more effective than others. Concrete is the most common flooring system on the farm. Farmers who work with concrete know that the finish and texture administered to the floor during the final pour is very important in improving the slip resistance. Some concrete amendments, such as abrasives, greatly improve the COF and reduce the likelihood of injuries from slips and falls.

Preventing slips and falls

Wearing slip-resistant footwear with treads designed to improve friction between shoes and slippery surface is highly recommended. Shoes with rubber soles have a COF of 1.0 on dry concrete floors, points out Murphy. But when the concrete floor is wet, that COF drops to 0.3, and the opportunity for slips and falls is greatly enhanced.

Just like tire tread depth on vehicle tires, tread depth on slip-resistant footwear is critical. Because farm injury claims can be high, insurance companies have taken a proactive role in researching and recommending improved tread designs for slip-resistant shoes.

These recommendations have encouraged some farm enterprises to develop footwear policies for reducing slip and fall injuries. A recent article in Mushroom News noted that one large mushroom producer reduced annual medical costs due to slip and fall injuries by more than 90%. It was achieved just by paying significant attention to tread wear and shoe selection by employees. So, considering a slip-resistant shoe policy is worthwhile.

You can also use slip-resistant mats to improve the COF of high pedestrian traffic. Careful placement of mats and their cleanliness are both important.

For more on reducing these risks, visit the website: www.peerless-ins.com . Type "Preventing slips and falls" in the "Search" box.