Legal Requirements for Employers
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all their employees and any public that may be affected by their work, so far as is reasonably practicable.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess risks regularly and take action to address them when applicable.
Employees have a duty not to put themselves or others in danger, and must use appropriate any safety equipment when available. This includes implementing safety procedures and equipment to control trips and falls.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires floors to be in suitable, good condition. People should be able to move around safely and free from obstruction.
Causes of Slips and Trips
There are a number of factors affecting the occurrence of sips and trips. Some are intrinsic to our bodies and how different body types react to a slip, and some are based on the surface of the floor we are walking on, hence the need for the regulations listed above. To start though, it is worth mentioning that slips happen most frequently to the elderly. This is primarily due to a decreased reaction time in comparison to young people, who, when sensing a slip can often recover immediately. It is usually a slip between 3-10cm that leads to corrective action being taken, which requires a split-second reaction in order to regain balance. The elderly do also not have the strength in their muscles to oppose the slip, which often leads to a fall.
The majority of slips are a resultant from floor slipperiness caused by a lubricant (grease, oils etc.) or liquid (water) being present on the floor surface. Additionally, these floor surfaces are often either smooth and offer no resistance, or damage with cracks and bumps in – both hazardous to walk on. Non slip flooring should be provided where possible – the most popular choice to remedy slipper floors is to purchase non slip mats which lay loosely on top of the floor, but non slip paints are also a good option.
Another danger zone is the transition between 2 surface types i.e. carpet to marble. The preceding example is a common combination in hotel entranceways. Slips in this situation occur when the entrance mat is not long enough to dry the feet before leaving the mat, making the smooth marble surface a very hazardous surface to walk on. Other than transitions in material, transitions in height can also be a tripping hazard.
Prevention is Better Than Cure
As with most potentially dangerous situations prevention is always better than cure, so it’s worth being aware of what you can do to look after the people around you.
It is your responsibility to manage the health and safety aspects in your workplace. To accomplish this, you need to understand the areas that may cause harm to staff and public by doing a ‘Risk Assessment’, and is required by law. A risk assessment will be able to inform you if what you are currently doing is enough to ensure the welfare of others or if you could be doing more.
A good way to get a strong idea of areas in your business that could cause risk is by asking your employees. They may be more aware of things that are not obvious to you and may have good suggestions on how to overcome them.
In most cases, simple adjustments is enough to ensure a safe workplace i.e. apply the use of non slip matting is areas that are prone to liquids.
After your checks are complete, make a record and re-visit every quarter.
It is important that all potential risks are identified and the operative knows how to best treat them. Here’s a few ways to minimize the risk of trips and slips.
Make sure that the right cleaning chemicals are being used on floors. Incorrect chemicals used for cleaning may either be insufficient to clean the dirt from the floor, or it may cause damage to the floor and in turn create a hazard i.e. some chemicals may crack vinyl.
Ensure that all spillages are mopped up quickly and all floor surfaces (especially smooth ones) are left dry after cleaning.
Have an effective cleaning rotor in place.
Consider the flooring
You may currently operate on floor surfaces that do not best suit the nature of the company. i.e. Smooth tiles in swimming pool hanging rooms. It is worth considering alternative options to raise the level of safety. In the aforementioned example, a simple cost effective alternative could be non slip matting or non slip flooring. If matting is your preferred solution, be sure to choose the mat that best suits your intended application to ensure long life and high performance from the mat. If non slip matting is not the ideal solution for your business, other alternatives include slip resistant footwear.