Solutions to prevent slips
Although a common cause of workplace injuries, slips, trips and falls are often very easily managed by implementing some simple preventative measures. MARISKA MORRIS investigates
Slips, trips and falls are some of the most common causes of workplace injuries globally and across all industries. Every sector is at risk of having an employee slip or trip and fall. The extent of the injury will depend on the fall, but could range from a bruised hip or a broken bone to a disability or death if a person should fall awkwardly down a flight of stairs, for example.
Fortunately, there are many ways in which companies can protect employees from slips and falls. The first step is prevention. To fully understand the slip or trip hazards in the office as well as the potential solutions, safety officers can conduct a slip and fall audit.
Limiting hazards or the possibility of an unsafe work environment is the best way to keep employees safe. To prevent slips, companies can ensure floors are kept clean and dry. However, this isn’t always possible – especially in industries where liquids are used frequently. When a spill does occur, it should be cleaned up as soon as possible.
Clear signs and railings
While the spill is being cleaned up, safety officers can ensure that there is clear signage to indicate the spill or a slippery area. In addition, posters can be placed strategically to remind and encourage employees to practise safe walking, for example by holding onto a railing when descending stairs.
In addition to providing well-anchored stable railings at staircases, companies can also erect railings on flat surfaces near areas at risk of spills or liquid, such as the factory floor.
In industries were spills are unavoidable, anti-slip mats can be an essential preventative tool. There are various matting solutions for each industry and application. The COBAdeluxe, for example, provides the ideal slip-resistance in wet or oily areas, while the K-Mat offers grip on greasy floors where liquids like grease, oils, fats and detergents are present.
When deciding on a solution, it is advisable to speak to a matting specialist, consider the most common liquids found and investigate the potential health or safety concerns that can arise from the particular solution.
In the food industry, for example, it’s important to implement a matting solution that is easy to clean and has minimal ridges to prevent the trapping of food particles or the build-up of bacteria. Installing a mat that doesn’t meet the criteria can cause a secondary health hazard.
Even though most of the matting solutions have drain capabilities, it is still important to ensure the mats are kept clean and washed on a regular basis.
Instead of, or in addition to matting solutions, employees could also be provided with safety footwear that is equipped with anti-slip properties. It is important to purchase footwear specific to each employee to ensure comfort. The safety boot should also fit the application.
Employees in the manufacturing or mechanical fields might require footwear with steel toe caps or anti-penetration midsoles, while workers in the food sector might require only a sturdy gumboot. Regardless of the industry, it is important to ensure that the space and depth of the thread on the shoe is correct.
If treads are spaced too close together or are too shallow, liquid will be trapped under the shoe instead of being directed to the outer edge of the outsole. This could cause an employee to slip. Once the correct footwear is purchased, it’s important for the safety boots to be well maintained. Particular attention should be paid to the tread depth on the shoe.
Training, training, training
Well-informed employees are less likely to place themselves in harm’s way. Although it might seem redundant, there is value in reminding or training workers in walking safely. In general, employees should be discouraged from running, participating in horseplay or walking while distracted by, for example, a text message. They should hold onto railing when available.
When crossing a wet floor, workers can slow down even further, keep their knees slightly bent and feet pointed outward to increase balance. Employees should be discouraged from taking shortcuts through high-risk or restricted areas as well as carrying cumbersome or too many objects.
Maintain work conditions
Aside from liquid spills, slips or trips can also be caused by other factors like poorly maintained floors – whether it is a piece of matting sticking up or particularly slippery tiles. It is important to have a person dedicated to ensuring the floors are in a good condition and that mats are replaced or repaired when needed.
Some companies may prefer to make this the priority of a contractor or facility manager. In this case, it is important to report any visible damage to the floor as soon as possible.
To further prevent trips, companies can also ensure all pathways are free of machinery or tools, the edges of mats are taped down and the office is well lit. Safety officers also need to consider the impact of the weather on safety.
During the rainy season, a lobby might become more slippery than usual as rain or water is tracked in with employees entering and leaving the office.