Slips, trips and falls at work cause injury to countless employees. They are responsible for more than 34,000 reportable injuries, 25% of the total reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The costs to business though lost time, lost opportunity, damage to premises and equipment, insurance costs, claims for damages, claims handling and legal costs are enormous.
Most can be prevented by a little thought, simple preventive measures and at little cost. So it’s not surprising that the HSE and Enforcing Authorities have been running publicity, inspection and enforcement campaigns aimed at reducing the number and severity of such injuries. The third phase of their Shattered Lives campaign has recently begun. You may have noticed the adverts and articles in papers, the trade press and on the radio. In the coming weeks and months inspectors, at site visits, will be asking businesses how they manage the risks and the measures that have been taken to prevent slips, trips and falls.
You won’t be able to give a sensible reply, avoid the occurrence of such accidents or improve efficiency without knowing the simple causes of slips, trips and falls and how to reduce associated risks.
• Contamination and spillages are a common cause of slips. Prevent the contamination and you avoid the slip. Provide external canopies and large doormats to prevent rainwater making floors slippery. Fix leaking machines or at the very least provide suitable drip-trays. Change systems of work to avoid spillage, if necessary provide larger containers or secure lids.
Where you can’t stop contamination you will need to ensure that floors are cleaned regularly and effectively.
• Using the wrong cleaning method or the wrong cleaning equipment can make the floor slippery. Some polishes when applied to some floor surfaces can make them slippery. Make sure you and your cleaners know the cleaning method recommended by the supplier and use it. .
Wet cleaning always makes floor surfaces more slippery until they have completely dried out. Consider using a micro fibre system. Micro fibre mops limit the amount of fluid on the floor and are designed to pick up dirt and hold it. They reduce the amount of residue that is left on the floor during and after mopping.
The HSE report that one Health Service Trust has seen an 85% reduction in slips, trips and falls in the two years since they introduced micro fibre cleaning mops. At first housekeeping staff were reluctant to change, but once the saw how easy they were to use and the reduction in the number of people slipping, they were more than happy. Within four weeks of an initial trial the system was extended throughout the hospital.
• Tripping hazards; any unexpected obstacle can cause a serious trip and fall. Half of all reportable trip accidents are the result of bad housekeeping. It is important to keep walkways clear - making sure that bags, cables and other obstacles aren’t left hanging around. Boxes left around the workplace are a serious trip hazard. Deliveries should be put into proper storage as quickly as possible and pallets or packaging cleared away.
• Changes in level, at short flights of steps or ramps are places where workers and others can trip or fall. People often trip or stumble at the change of level at the top and bottom of a ramp; the risk can be reduced by making the ramp of a different colour to the rest of the floor. Similarly stair nosings in a different colour to the rest of the step make it easier for users to see where the steps begin and end. Always provide suitable handrails.
• Grabbing a chair and standing on it to reach something at a height can be tempting and an easy solution, especially when you’re in a rush. But it is not designed for this purpose as many, many people have found to their cost. Always provide and use the correct access equipment.
• Damaged floors and pathways are an obvious hazard and should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible. An employer faced penalties in excess of £7,000 when prosecuted after an accident to a catering assistant, who had tripped in a hole in a concrete walkway outside a busy kitchen. The hole had been made so that a leaking pipe could be repaired. Five months later, despite several near misses and minor injuries, a wheel on the trolley that the catering assistant was pushing dropped into the hole. She lost her balance and stumbled into the hole. Although a simple accident the injuries were severe and she was unable to work for several months. Within hours of the accident the concrete walkway has been properly reinstated.
Do any of these issues affect you, are any present at your premises? If you believe that you can answer – No, ask yourself two more questions. Can I be sure and when did I last check?
If you have identified shortcomings take action now. If the action can’t be completed short-term prepare a written action plan. Should an inspector visit and question what you are doing to reduce risk, the production of a written action plan with designated target dates will show that you are actively managing health and safety and is sure to impress.
Don’t forget that if you need further information about slips, trips and falls one of our health and safety consultants is always available to take your call on our 24 Hour Advice Service, on 0844 892 2785. Alternatively you can contact them through the ‘Advice Request →Advice’ tabs on our online SafetyWise system.