Nobody wants to think of a bathroom as a dangerous place, but when it comes to slip and fall accidents and injuries, bathrooms can pose serious hazards for people of all ages. Whether in your home, your business, or somewhere you frequent, there are steps everyone can take to understand the causes of and potential proactive steps to prevent this type of accident.
Falls Are a Leading Cause of Unintentional Injury Deaths
Each year, approximately 36 million people ages 65 and older fall, with about one-fifth resulting in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, falls are the cause of more than 32,000 injury-related deaths in this age group. Worldwide, falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury death, according to the World Health Organization.
But not only older people are at risk of slipping — which is when your feet move forward and your head falls back — and subsequently falling. In one recent example, a neck injury sustained during a bathroom fall contributed to the end of an Olympic journey for Australian basketball player Aron Baynes, who is 34. Age, gender and health all affect the type and severity of injuries sustained during a fall, as well as other factors, such as medications, mobility, and environmental factors.
We’ve laid out a basic 4-Why Cause Map™ diagram all the way up to a 20-Why Cause Map diagram to illustrate that not only does every issue have a number of causes, but that as you dig into the causes, you can find simple yet effective risk mitigation and reduction tactics.
Exploring Fundamental Causes of Bathroom Slips
Bathrooms are notoriously wet. Slick floors combined with ceramic and tile surfaces, along with a need to sit and stand and step over thresholds — like into the shower or bathtub — can quickly make a bathroom unsafe. In addition to the more frequent cuts and bruises, fall victims could suffer loss of consciousness, broken bones, or brain or spinal cord injuries in certain cases.
In this linear, 4-Why Cause Map diagram, you can see the “why” and “because” explanations. For example, a person injured their head because their head struck the floor. The person struck the floor because he or she fell backward.
While this 4-Why is accurate, it is only a partial explanation. Does slipping and losing your balance always result in a fall? No, in fact, people sometimes slip and lose their balance but are able to regain it just in time to avoid falling. This implies two causes that must happen for the individual to fall backward. They lose their balance AND are unable to regain it, as shown in the expanded Map below. Both causes are required to fall and hit your head in this instance. This is an important causal relationship to capture because it reveals more opportunities to reduce risk.
A Systematic Approach to Solving Problems
By breaking the fall into a system of causes, we can open the door to more solution options to reduce risk.
It’s important to note that problem-solving is not about eliminating risks entirely, but identifying, mitigating and reducing risks. Controlling just one of the many causes required will help to avoid a negative outcome. For example, if you install grab bars, your foot might still slip on the floor, but holding the grab bars provides the opportunity to regain your balance and avoid the fall.
Remember that to fall, you must lose your balance and not be able to regain it. The problem can be avoided because one cause was controlled.
Digging deeper into the causes of slipping will reveal other proactive solution opportunities. For example:
Grab bars: Balance issues, whether they’re age or medication-related, can make it difficult for someone to regain balance in time to prevent a fall. To remedy this, homeowners could install grab bars near the toilet and shower. Remind people to step carefully into the tub or shower to minimize force.
Use non-slip rug backings if you must have a rug: Rugs may look nice and keep your feet from getting cold, but they can easily trip you up, especially if they don’t have a non-slip backing. Evaluate whether you need a rug at all, and if you do, the flatter the better. Look for less fluffy rugs with non-skid backing or add your own non-slip material that fits your rug well.
Invest in a shower chair and a raised toilet seat: For those with balance or mobility issues, shower chairs and something as simple as raising the toilet seat can be helpful to prevent falling. Ensure anything placed in the shower has a slip-resistant seat and rubber tips on the legs.
Keep your space clean and consider a motion sensor light: Soap scum buildup and other residues can cause slips. Wipe down and tidy up regularly to prevent falls. Don’t leave clothes on the floor and remove decorations that could cause you to trip or could injure you in a fall. Installing a motion sensor light could also keep you from having to take your eyes off of anything that could cause you to trip or lose your balance.
Exercise regularly: Keep your muscles strong and improve balance through regular exercise, as declines in physical functioning can increase the risk of a fall and the inability to regain balance.
While bathroom slips may seem like a simple issue, there are a number of causes and consequences to consider. No matter your industry or the complexity of your issue, completing a Cause Mapping® investigation can help you define, analyze and solve a problem.
Many of the causes and effects can be applied to other slip and fall incidents, including slipping on ice or a wet floor, or even as you move from one surface to another on public transportation or while taking a walk. The same systematic approach applies.
While no area is slip-proof, by applying critical thinking and proactive planning, you can help ensure you and your loved ones stay safe both in their homes and in public areas.
A DIY Approach to Cause-and-Effect Relationships
Studying cause and effect doesn’t require fancy software, big teams or a hefty budget. You can dissect any problem with just a pen and paper, sticky notes, and a desire to solve problems — from those that pop up day-to-day to catastrophic events that could have fatal or lasting impacts mentally, physically, and emotionally.
To help develop cause and effect thinking and problem solving, flex those muscles. Try having your family or organization identify a problem and its causes. Start small and build on your skills. As you do, you’ll find a number of ways to mitigate risk and avoid unintended outcomes.
With the Cause Mapping method, the analysis starts simple then expands into as much detail as needed to thoroughly explain an issue. Dive deeper into the slip and fall problem by checking out our detailed 20-Why Cause Map diagram PDF (click on the image below).
Do you need help with the Cause Mapping method of root cause analysis? Be sure to check out our free weekly webinars, our various RCA workshop options, or let the expert facilitators at ThinkReliability help you investigate your problem.