Slips, Trips & Falls in the Workplace
In winter when the weather is wet, windy and occasionally icy, conditions can provide a multitude of slipping and falling hazards. But these hazards are actually present all year round, both indoor and outdoor.
Anything from packaging and other items being left where they shouldn't be, wires from tools reaching across paths, wet cement or sand on the floor or wet floors from cleaning can all cause severe injury if they cause a slip or trip. Even uneven ground outside can be a cause for concern, particularly in the dark.
Approximately 40% of all reported major injuries at work are the result of a slip or trip. Many of these accidents can be prevented by following some simple procedures, which are easy to implement and low-cost, and should come as the result of carrying out a risk assessment. You also need to be aware of health and safety requirements in the workplace, such as providing signs warning people of danger.
Risk assessments should pick up risks in the particular workplace, but the chances of slips and falls will be commonplace across all work fields, whether in construction and on site or in an office or retail environment.
- What are the most likely risks in your work? Ask your colleagues too, and compile a list
- How could each of these be prevented? The solution might be as simple as a door mat for wet footwear, sticky covers for trailing wires across the floor, or using cordless tools to minimise the risk of power cords
- Record your hazard findings and the measures proposed, either in a hard copy document, a shared location on your company computer network, or both
- Agree to have regular reviews – No workplace is static and health and safety will need to evolve with the business
Remember the five-stage risk assessment:
- Look for slip and trip hazards around the workplace (including floor coverings, uneven floors and trailing cables)
- Decide who might be harmed and how. Are some groups more at risk than others?
- Consider the risks. Are there already measures in place to deal with the risks? Are floor coverings suitable for the area?
- Record findings if you have five or more employees
- Regularly review the assessments
After considering your work environment and the potential risks here are some quick, practical steps you can take right now to prevent slips and trips in the workplace:
Reducing the Risk of Slips, Trips & Falls
In the environment:
- Is the lighting sufficient? You should be able to see exactly where you are going and should be able to spot any potential tripping or slipping hazards on the floor
- Make sure your flooring is the right type for your working environment – e.g. if your workplace is prone to wet floors, choose a type of flooring which provides more grip and is less slippery when wet
- Have regular reviews of the workplace to make sure all avoidable obstructions which could cause trips such as tools or wires are removed. Moving to battery powered tools can really help here
- For frequently wet floors, use matting for entrances and exits
- For muddy floors, rubber ground guards can be a good idea
- Minimise risk of tripping by ensuring all equipment, whether in the office or on a site, is kept clean and stored correctly
- Minimise risk of unnecessary wet workspaces by ensuring all machinery and buildings are maintained with no leakages
- Cover any wires which must run across paths using a cable cover
- Ensure your floor cleaning method is done with safety in mind (e.g. if you’re cleaning smooth floors, put up slip warnings or ensure floor is dry before allowing people to walk on the floor)
- Use a large-scale floor scrubber if quick cleaning and drying is required
- Are you using the right cleaning formula? Ensure that the chemicals you use on the floors for cleaning don’t produce any slippery residue
- Regular and scheduled cleaning rotas can help to ensure that any spillages are guaranteed to be cleaned within the minimal amount of time
- Footwear that is supplied to employees as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be given free of charge
- If a floor simply cannot avoid becoming wet and a slip risk, make sure that footwear provided for employees is slip-resistant
- Give all footwear a test run before being used on a wider company-level to make sure that the best possible kind of footwear is chosen
- Ensure that employees are encouraged to maintain Health & Safety procedures and foster a culture of consciousness about safety in the workplace.
- Involve your employees in Health & Safety discussions and reviews. They may have spotted some potential risks you haven’t.
For more on the ins and outs of slips, trips and falls safety, check out the HSE website, at www.hse.gov.uk
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