Why is it important to tackle slips and trips risks?
Slips and trips resulting in falls are the most common cause of major injuries in all workplaces in Great Britain and the second biggest cause of over-3-day injuries. Slips and trips occasionally lead directly to fatal accidents usually from head injuries. In the workplace and all public places the need to carry out risk assessments and then resolve identified problems has become an imperative.
Recent evidence suggests that slips are also indirectly responsible for many fatal accidents, as:
Slips and trips risks are especially important in factories and public places because:
The National Audit Office, in their report of April 2003, 1 highlighted slips and trips as a main type of accident to workers and the public. The report includes recommendations that many organisations should review their health and safety risk management policies and improve their accident reporting systems.
Accidents can be cut dramatically through planning and positive management during refurbishment and new build, together with good housekeeping. Employees should be consulted at an early stage, as they will have useful experience of areas where problems arise. Accidents are not an inevitable part of life - they can and should be prevented.
Understanding how risks can be controlled
The four main causes of slips and trips accidents are:
The floor has to have an appropriate level of roughness - for smooth floors it is the 'micro-roughness' that matters. The environment, the footwear, and the task also have to be suitable.
The characteristics of floor surface materials, required to provide satisfactory slip resistance, were thought to be difficult to assess. However, research carried out by HSE at the Health and Safety Laboratory, in conjunction with the UK Slip Resistance Group and the British Standards Institution, has shown this is not the case. The slipperiness of flooring materials may be simply assessed by using commercially available scientific test methods:
Managing the control of slips and trips risks
What practical measures can be taken will vary in different situations. It will need the assessment of each situation, identify what factors cause slips and trips, and match practical control measures to these factors.
It will require management arrangements to identify and implement the necessary control measures for each situation. The five steps to achieve this are listed below:
Although previous health and safety legislation had always required action against slips and trips risks, recent regulations have re-emphasised the importance of these measures and shown how to take them.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 (amended in 1999) specify the five steps required for effective risk control arrangements and employee duties, as well as training and consultation with safety representatives.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require the floor surface to be suitable by not being 'slippery so as to expose any person to a risk to their safety' and for the floor to have 'effective drainage'. Preventing contamination rather than increasing the slip resistance to counteract it is clearly preferable. However, very small levels of contamination (a single drop in many circumstances) can lead to drastic increases in slipperiness. Prevention of contamination must therefore be very thorough.
There are also duties on suppliers of equipment, floor treatment substances and slip-resistant shoes is a possibility to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the inherent safety of their products and to provide information to users.
The Workplace Regulations also require the floor construction to:
There are now available anti-slip covers made from tough and durable fibre-glass which are coated with silicon carbide grit and have been specifically designed for easy installation. These materials are now manufactured in various styles and shapes such as stair nosing's that are now even produced in luminous material to conform with the recent Disability Discrimination Act.
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