Although the risks can occur in any workplace, there are certain places of work where there is a prevalence of injuries due to slips, trips and falls: food retail, catering and hospitality, food and drink manufacture, building and plant maintenance, construction, healthcare and education.
For slips and trips, the HSE is suggesting that businesses draw a sketch map of their premises and mark all the slip and trip accidents and incidents, whether they resulted in injury of not, that have occurred in the last 12 months (or any other relevant period). This mapping exercise will identify “hotspots” and, combined with an assessment of floors and surfaces, show where there are problems. It will also identify their causes and suggest action to prevent further incidents and injuries.
In most cases, the underlying cause of slip and trip accidents will be contamination on floors, unsuitable floors, unsuitable footwear, the presence of a tripping hazard or any of those, in any combination. Careful consideration of each of these underlying causes could identify cost effective measures that might be taken to prevent another incident.
Most floors are only slippery when they have become contaminated. Almost anything that ends up on a floor can be thought of as contamination, spilt raw material or product, oil, grease, paper, cardboard, packing materials, rainwater, rags, etc. Where possible eliminate or reduce the contamination. For example; if the problem is rainwater contamination at an entrance consider providing canopies above the doors and water absorbing mats inside the entry to stop rainwater entering the building. If machines are leaking arrange for their repair and, in the short term, provide drip trays. Should the spillages be the result of the work process, consider changing the system of work to avoid the spillage.
Prevent contamination and you reduce or even eliminate the slip risk. If you cannot prevent floors becoming contaminated, a cleaning policy that removes spillages quickly and effectively is essential.
If relying on the floor being good enough to cope with the contamination and still be non-slip, you need to remember that the more viscous the contamination the rougher a floor needs to be in order for slips not to happen.
The floor in a workplace must be suitable for the type of work activity that will be taking place. Where a floor cannot be kept dry, people should be able to walk on the floor without fear of a slip, despite any contamination that may be on it. So it should have sufficient surface roughness. The floor must be cleaned correctly to ensure that it does not become slippery and that a non-slip floor keeps its slip resistant properties.
Floors must be fitted correctly to ensure that there are no trip hazards and that any non-slip coatings are correctly applied. They must be maintained in good order - no holes, uneven surfaces, curled up carpet edges, etc. Floors should also be level without ramps or raised platforms or other changes in level; if these cannot be avoided they should be visually highlighted, for example, by a different coloured floor covering.
Stairs also need to be suitable and should have high visibility, non-slip, square nosing on the step edges, a suitable handrail, and steps of equal height and width.
The right choice of footwear can have an important role in preventing slips and trips. It links closely with the type of flooring in use in the workplace. Very often manufacturers claim that their footwear has ‘slip resistance’, ‘improved grip’ or ‘multi-directional slip resistance’ but do not state the type of floor surface for which those claims are made.
If you cannot control footwear, e.g. customers in a retail outlet, keeping smooth floors clean and dry is vitally important.
Where floors are mainly clean and dry, sensible footwear (flat, sensible heel, with the sole and heel made in a soft material that provides some grip) will reduce risks.
Where floors cannot be kept dry or clean, so e.g. in food preparation, the right footwear will be especially important, so a slip resistant shoe may be required. In this case the footwear is classed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and must be provided free of charge.
The tests that manufacturers use to establish slip resistance may not correspond with your work environment. Footwear that performs well in wet conditions might not be suitable where food is spilt and vice versa. So it is recommended that footwear is tested in the workplace before any commitment is made. As a guide;
Half of all trip accidents are caused by poor housekeeping. Simple improvements to housekeeping would eliminate a large number of accidents. Keep the floor around desks and machines clear; provide additional storage space if that is the reason for clutter. Set out suitable walkways through the workplace and keep them free from trailing wires and other obstructions. It is not difficult and comes down to effective management. Good housekeeping does not cost money; it just takes a little personal effort.
For any further information regarding the issues above, please call our Advice Service on 0844 892 2488.