Every employer has a legal obligation to protect people from the hazards involved in their business, both as employees and people who might be affected by what they do – and yet slips, trips and falls are still the most common form of workplace injury in the UK.
Those obligations are defined in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – but implementing controls is often down to a dose of common sense and applying a little thought over things you might otherwise take for granted because you’re so familiar with your surroundings, and things have changed imperceptibly over the years.
But it’s important to remember that no-one running a business can ever hope to be everywhere all the time, which is why training all employees to be ‘anti-slip-and-trip ambassadors’, with a responsibility for eliminating hazards as soon as they occur, is part of having a safe workplace. Naturally there are things you have a responsibility for, like curling carpets, worn stairs, or dripping condensation pooling on smooth floors – but employees are the people who might sweep waste from workbench to floor, and leave it there; who might overfill containers, whose contents could then spill out unchecked and unmopped, and who might leave cables trailing over the floor.
Walk through your workplace, advises the Health and Safety Executive, not as a person going about their daily business, but as someone looking for every possible slipping and tripping hazard. You might raise employee awareness by asking them to do the job, and offering a small prize for the best list. The HSE even offers a checklist and suggests remedies. The list you produce as a result might show more hazards than you anticipated. It’s suggested that you look for the following:
• a build-up of slippery leaves, wet grass or moss outside the premises
• paths that are prone to ice build-up in the winter
• hard-to-see changes in levels
• potholes or lose paving
• fire escapes that are slippery when wet
• indoor tiles being wet when people come in on rainy days
• curling mats or loose floor tiles
• smooth floors where contamination occurs
• worn grip tape
• trailing cables
• poor lighting
• worn staircases
• floors becoming contaminated and slippery
• people being careless with materials
• overfilled containers
• workbench waste being swept onto the floor
• leaks from machines
• ice build-up in cold stores
• blocked walkways
• leaky taps
• slow clean-up response after spills
• over-polishing of floors making them slippery
All of these can be remedied; some by investment and others by good housekeeping and employee training. In removing the hazards, be careful not to replace them with others, counsels the HSE advice. It cites as an example wet mopping of spills, which can replace one contaminant with another without removing the hazard. Better, they say, to use appropriate absorbents and to leave the floor dry.
Other things to consider are:
• providing the right footwear
• having dedicated entrance mats which can be replaced and cleaned
• applying anti-slip floor paints
• replacing leaky taps and valves
• keeping walkways clean and level
• adding extra lighting
• providing the right spill kits for employee use
• and training employees to use them
Taking the right slip-free steps will mean everyone can go home as fit and well as when they arrived, allowing your business another profitable and headache-free day.