How to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls in the Workplace
We’ll state the obvious here: People slip, trip and fall. Often by accident. And they sustain injuries. Some even die.
Update: According to the latest estimates from preliminary data by Safe Work Australia (SWA) published October 2021, there were more than 27,800 serious claims from accidents caused by slips, trips and falls in 2019 and 2020 (based on preliminary data).
Here’s how SWA defines them:
- Slips occur when your foot loses traction with the ground surface due to inappropriate footwear or walking on slippery floor surfaces that are highly polished, wet or greasy.
- Trips occur when you catch your foot on an object or surface. In most cases, people trip on low obstacles that are hard to spot, such as uneven edges in flooring, loose mats, open drawers, untidy tools or electrical cables.
- Falls can result from a slip or trip, but many occur during falls from low heights such as steps, stairs and curbs, falling into a hole or a ditch or into water.
SWA emphasised the importance of minimising the risks of working at heights, which is considered a high-risk activity. It's even one of the leading causes of workplace-related serious injuries and deaths, so we hope you see the value in investing in height safety and fall protection equipment.
According to Safe Work NSW: "Employers or businesses, or anyone who falls under the definition of a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (a PCBU), has legal obligations under work health and safety (WHS) laws."
Put simply, if accidents happen in your business, to any of your staff, that’s bad news for you. We’re talking about lots of work hours lost, which translate to negative productivity. What’s worse: We’re talking about big amounts of dollars you might spend on claims and legal obligations.
The good news: Slips, trips and falls are 100% preventable! It’s all about education and proper implementation of safety measures.
Check out this infographic on how you can prevent slips, trips and falls in your workplace.
Protect your workforce from costly accidents. Inquire about anti-slip solutions today
EDUCATE your business about the importance of occupational safety:
Safety is everyone’s responsibility. While the guiding principles are usually designed from the top and executed down, the value of workplace safety should be appreciated by everyone across the board, regardless of function or role.
At the management level: Design safety procedures and conduct training to educate your workers on how to “recognize and avoid” slip, trip and fall hazards. Make sure to provide the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) they need for the job.
Get familiar with the occupational safety-related legislation that applies to your business (which varies on federal and state levels). These references from SWA and Comcare are good places to start. If in doubt, consult a lawyer specialising in WorkCover.
Consult or hire a safety officer, where relevant or as required by law (depending on your business size or industry).
At the workforce level: Ensure that your staff are aware, and fully understand, the safety procedures in place -- from the guidelines they observe to the gear they wear, to the best practices they do before, during and after work.
IMPLEMENT safety measures:
Once the mindset of safety is in place, it becomes easier to carry out these safety measures to mitigate the risks of slips, trips and falls on your workforce. If you’re a one-man team or a solo tradesman, the same applies, albeit on a simpler scale, to your workshop.
Streamline the workflow: It’s all about the process. Visualize the end-to-end movement of people, materials and equipment across the main production floors and other relevant areas (quality assurance, storage etc).
Consider how work is managed and done such that rushing, overcrowding, spills and rubbish build-up are minimised/avoided.
Plan pedestrian and vehicle routes so there is minimal overlap/crossing of paths among them.
Keep the pathways clear and properly lit - INSIDE AND OUT.
Keep walkways free of debris, clutter, obstacles (eg. wrinkled carpets and loose mats) and spills.
Make sure the flooring is even and free of loose/wrinkled carpets/tiles, broken tiles etc.
Place power outlets near “points of use” to minimise/eliminate trailing cables and extension cords.
Provide adequate lighting that is free of glare and shadows, so that potential slip or trip hazards are clearly visible.
Don’t ignore the immediate outdoors within the workplace, so check for build-up of slippery elements, such as moss, sludge and vegetation.
Keep equipment in good shape, free of leaks and loose parts:
Check for debris coming from worn, torn or misplaced pieces.
Check machines, hoses and pipes for leaks, puddles and spills from chemicals, lubricants and oil.
Make sure the ladders, scaffolding etc are functioning properly. When using them, make sure to install them correctly on a stable platform.
Ensure good housekeeping routine:
During cleaning, erect caution signs to alert staff that an area is wet or slippery, so they avoid it or proceed with caution.
Make sure there is no build-up of polish on the floor.
Make sure there is no excessive residue of cleaning detergent.
PROVIDE safety gear and make sure it's used properly -- from TOE to HEAD.
Sure, protection usually starts from the head (literally), but in the context of slips, trips and falls, the accident usually occurs at the feet. Nevertheless, when a fall is not totally avoided, you want to make sure bodily injuries are minimised, especially on critical body parts:
Firstly, and most importantly, make sure your staff know how to put the safety gear on, move around with it, and discard/store it after use.
Footwear is (almost) everything. Good slip resistance is paramount. Make sure the footwear is applicable for either wet or dry conditions.
Provide fall protection systems (ie harnesses) when necessary.
Provide safety markings and signs:
Install highly visible warning signs to draw attention to potential hazards.
Mark walkways with safety tape to guide workers to the right path.
Block off trip hazards with barricades and safety cones.
Invest in good anti-slip solutions from a trusted supplier:
Install anti-slip mats, stair treads, stair nosings and ladder rung covers that provide traction and firm footing.
In October each year, SWA emphasises the importance of WHS through the National Safe Work Month. The theme for 2021 is “Think Safe. Work Safe. Be Safe.”
We'll be publishing more articles about WHS, with a focus on mitigating risks from slips and working at height.