Preventing slips, trips and falls in the workplace
Filed under: Safety
Slips, trips and falls can happen in any workplace. Some of the most common at risk areas around the workplace include the entry of a building, the kitchen, cold room loading docks and even as you walk outside the building. Many employees have consequently suffered sprains, broken bones, back injuries, burns from hot surfaces or handling of hot fluids and bad cuts from sharp objects. As a result companies have had to face many financial, physical and emotional costs for the injured employees and their families. These falls and slips can be prevented and their severity reduced from some simple safety actions.
Let’s look at an example case where one worker sustained serious injuries at work from a fall. The employee was carrying a box and he tripped over an electrical cord on the floor across a walkway at his workshop. The employee hit his head and shoulder on the corner of some warehouse equipment and consequently received a serious shoulder injury; requiring major surgery. His workplace received a $25,000 fine and the injured employee was out of work for three months and was unable to be replaced for this time period. After an inspection it was also found that the workshop lighting was poor, making the electrical cords on the floor hard to see; especially when carrying bulky items which additionally impairs an employee’s vision. There could have been some procedures in place to prevent this from happening and saved the employee and the company time, money and stress. The warehouse could have been designed so power outlets were available near areas of use, meaning no walkways are obstructed by loose cords. Adequate lighting should have been set up in the workshop so obstructions are easily visible, and trolleys or other equipment readily available so no employee needs to carry vision obstructing loads.
Common contributors to the risk of slips and trips:
- Wet and greasy floors
- Dry floors with wood dust or powder
- Polished or freshly waxed floors
- Loose flooring, carpeting or mats
- Missing or uneven floor tiles and bricks
- Uneven/sloped floor surfaces
- Shoes with wet, muddy, greasy or oily soles
- Loose electrical cords or cables on the floor
- Ramps and planks without skid-resistant surfaces
- Weather conditions (rain, ice, snow, hail, frost)
7 simple tips to prevent slips, trips and falls in the workplace:
1. Identify hazards and risks
Talk to workers and supervisors, inspect the workplace and observe work activities. Review incident and injury reports as well as workers’ compensation claims for past instances. Sketch a layout of the work area and mark on it where slip and trip incidents or risks have been reported. How many people are exposed? What are the consequences of the incident; a fall can be more serious if it occurs near hot, sharp or moving objects, or at a height, such as near stairs. How often has the situation occurred?
Footwear should be suitable for the type of work and environment, comfortable with an adequate non-slip sole and appropriate tread pattern, checked occasionally to ensure treads are not worn away or clogged with contaminants
Prevention of slips, trips and falls starts with good workplace outlay; incorporating features to prevent slips and trips. Adequate light levels without glare or shadowing is required to highlight potential hazards. Workers need to be able to maintain their balance when performing tasks and be able to recover if they slip or trip. When handling loads, workers should have full view of where they need to travel and should also have a free hand to hold onto a rail when walking down steps.
Some of these features are listed below:
• Ensuring stair treads are consistent throughout a flight of stairs
• Applying non-slip edges (nosings) to improve stairs along with handrails
• Providing clear visual cues for the start and finish of the stairs along with appropriate lighting
• Install exhaust systems to remove dust or vapour that could settle on floors
• Maintain floor space, stairs, ramps or any other ground space to make sure any features are kept up
Employees should have a good understanding of risks and how they can prevent them. All employees play a part in maintaining good housekeeping and cleanliness and it is therefore important to train all employees on control measures and standards. Employees must be trained to report any hazards to their supervisor. Employees must take immediate action in cases of spills; including procedures to begin cleaning up the spill and immediate action to warn others.
5. Cleaning procedures
The workplace needs to be scanned for hazards such as grease build-up, spills. low objects, newly cleaned wet areas and cluttered workspaces. Cleaning tasks need to be clearly outlined to all employees so they know what their responsibilities are. Cleaning should be commenced at an appropriate time where there isn’t high traffic through the workplace, and if this can’t be done, adequate signage is necessary to inform employees of any wet floor surfaces. Floor surfaces need to be adequately cleaned to ensure any spills or contaminants are completely removed with no left over cleaning product residue. Additionally a build-up of polish and other floor materials should be avoided as excess polish may be transferred to footwear and become a hazard elsewhere.
Use warning signs to alert people when surfaces are wet following recent cleaning or spills. Signage should indicate procedures, such as specific footwear required for certain locations. This is important especially for visitors to the work place.
7. Machinery and equipment
Regular maintenance and inspection of machinery for signs of leaks is necessary along with regular site clean ups to remove any rubbish.
• It is important to note that when transporting materials by hand or with a trolley the load is not stacked to a height where it is blocking the view of the floor ahead.
• Use a metal tray or a low concrete wall and absorbent material rolls around a machine to contain any liquids from machinery.
• Support electric cords and pneumatic hoses for air tools overhead to keep them off the floor.
We hope you’ve found these tips useful for avoiding slips, trips and falls in your workplace. These are just some of the things you can do, so let us know if you have any more ideas on how we can keep the workplace a safer place for all.
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