How to Prevent Slips and Falls

woman running up stairs

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Slips and falls can greatly threaten your health and independence. Slips and falls are major causes of serious injury and death.

People with arthritis, osteoporosis, and mobility problems have greater risks. It is estimated that one in three Americans over 50 who suffer a hip fracture will die within a year. Hip fractures also account for over 300,000 annual hospitalizations.

Slips and falls have many causes, but usually have one thing in common. They could have been prevented.

woman running up stairs

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Preventing Slips and Falls With a Little Common Sense

Accidents do happen, however, most slips and falls could and should have been prevented. The key to preventing most slips and falls is following some simple common-sense tips. Take the time to identify, control and eliminate the hazards around your home to lower your chances of slips and falls.

In the Living Room

  • Clear clutter off the floor (pick up newspapers, books, shoes, toys, magazines, etc.)
  • Use care around low furniture (coffee tables, ottomans, etc.)
  • Anchor loose telephone, computer, and electrical cords.
  • Secure or avoid area throw rugs (especially those used over linoleum, wood or tile flooring, or those that curl up on the ends)
  • Repair bulges in carpeting
  • Take extra care with changes in the floor surface (such as when carpet meets tile floors)

In the Kitchen

  • Wipe up spills immediately.
  • Use a sturdy step stool (not a chair), when you need to reach up into those top kitchen cupboards.
  • Use teacher aids to access those high shelves.
  • Organize your kitchen for easier access.
  • Keep kitchen drawers and cabinets closed.
  • Use a non-skid rug in front of the sink.
  • Do not over wax or polish your floors.

In the Bathroom

  • Install actual grab bars by the toilet, shower, and tub. (note: towel racks, soap dishes etc. are not designed to hold a person's weight)
  • Use extra care around soapy water.
  • Soft-water can make showering very slippery.
  • Use a shower chair and handheld showerhead if prone to falling.
  • Use non-skid bath mats by the shower and sink. (they help absorb splashes)
  • Use rubber mats or slip-resistant stickers in the bathtub.
  • Quickly clean up puddles.

In the Bedroom

  • Pick-up clothes, shoes or other items off the floor.
  • Close your dresser drawers.
  • Before getting up out of bed, always take the time to sit on the edge of the bed to make sure you are not feeling light-headed or dizzy.
  • Wear properly fitting clothing, you can trip overcoats, pant legs or bathrobes that are too long.

Proper Shoes and Footwear

Shoes and footwear should fit properly. Choose shoes with low heels and good tread, whenever possible.

Soles and heels of shoes should provide good "traction" and be slip-resistant. (Note: traction is the force, measured in terms of quality of surface friction, that allows you to walk without slipping)

Wear slip-on shoes when possible. Always keep shoelaces on lace-up shoes securely tied.

Preventing Slips and Falls While Walking

  • Slow it down, take your time.
  • Don't rush to get the front door or answer the telephone.
  • Use a cane or walker if you feel unsteady.
  • Keep all assistive devices in good repair. (replace worn rubber tips, etc.)
  • Use care when walking on surfaces that can make it difficult to maintain your footing. (such as loose rocks, uneven floors or broken sidewalks)
  • Watch where you're walking.
  • Avoid distractions, stay focused on what you're doing.

When It's Slippery

  • It's always extra slippery when a surface gets wet (take care around water from sprinklers, rain, ice or snow)
  • Keep driveways and walkways free of ice and snow.
  • Be on the lookout for standing water that gets tracked in from outside.
  • Be extra careful on any slick surface.
  • Use slip-resistant products and materials (such as a non-skid throw rug to reduce your chance of slipping on linoleum)

On Stairs and Steps

  • Always keep steps and staircases clear.
  • Keep stairwells well-lit.
  • Install sturdy handrails on both sides, if you can.
  • Add non-slip safety treads to steps.
  • Always keep one hand free to be able to use the handrail.
  • Never carry items that obstruct your view of the next step.
  • Don't overload yourself. (instead: carry smaller, lighter loads and/or make extra trips)
  • Take your time to decrease chances of misjudging a step.

In the Garage

  • Clean up those greasy, oily, or muddy floors.
  • Clean and organize the clutter (it's easy to trip over a misplaced object in storage areas)
  • Never use a "make-shift" ladder in place of a real ladder (note: chairs, boxes, barrels, etc. should never be used as substitutes for a true sturdy ladder)
  • Take extra care when climbing up to high places.
  • Take extra care when reaching out your arms or overextending your reach, especially on a ladder.

Better Vision and Light

  • Turn on the lights! (you can easily miss an unknown object lurking in the darkness)
  • Use night lights.
  • Wear your glasses if you need them.
  • Have your vision checked regularly by an eye doctor (You may have vision changes and/or problems such as cataracts)
  • Don't wear sunglasses indoors.
  • Give your eyes a chance to adjust (going from light to dark areas, or vice versa, can cause temporary vision problems)

With Young Children

  • Keep young children supervised at all times, obvious dangers are not always apparent to children.
  • Don't let children climb onto furniture (including tables, countertops, etc.)
  • Always properly strap children into high chairs, shopping carts, and strollers.
  • Keep playtime away from windows, sliding patio doors, porches, balconies and other dangerous areas.
  • Use safety gates.

Around Your Pets

  • Smaller pets can get under your feet, causing you to trip on or over them.
  • Larger pets can jump on you, knocking you off balance.

Preventing Slips And Falls With Exercise

It's easy to become less active or more sedentary because of the pain, fatigue, and other limitations of arthritis. Lack of exercise leads to weakness, whereas, exercise improves strength and balance, builds coordination, and helps you feel better. Ask your healthcare provider or physical therapist which type of exercise is best for you. Types of arthritis-friendly exercise include:


  • Consider using assistive devices, mobility aids, and other helpful gadgets. The limitations of arthritis can make tasks challenging and frustrating. Remember, there are products that can help.
  • Follow your medication dosages closely. Review your medications (including supplements and other products you take over-the-counter) with your healthcare provider. Certain medications or combination of medications can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, light-headedness, weakness and other side effects that could lead to slips and falls.

By Carol Eustice
Carol Eustice is a writer covering arthritis and chronic illness, who herself has been diagnosed with both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.