As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), it is your duty to manage health and safety risks in the workplace. A major part of this is preventing slip and falls. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 2017 and 2018, 20.3% of workplace-related injuries involved slips, trips and falling from heights. It was the second-most common cause of injury among working Australians.
Fortunately, just by implementing a few simple control measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of slip and falls. According to Safe Work Australia, 56% of slip and falls in the workplace are caused by environmental factors. This includes spillages, obstructions on the floor, uneven walking surfaces and poor visibility.
By managing these factors, not only will you be protecting your colleagues, you’ll also be preventing your company from having to pay compensation for personal injury.
In this blog, we will look at how you can prevent slip and falls at work. We will discuss major factors including risk assessments, floor obstructions, safety products and proper lighting.
- Conduct a risk assessment
A risk assessment can be done via a meeting with your colleagues or via the assistance of a safety professional. Such an assessment can address issues such as workload hazards, chemical hazards, or biological hazards like COVID-19. In this case, we will be focusing on assessing physical hazards relating to slip and falls.
The aims of a risk assessment are as follows:
- To identify potential health and safety risks in the workplace
When it comes to slip and falls, the most common causes are slippery surfaces, uneven floors, and obstructions in walkways. Since these are known risks, they are generally easy to identify and control. If you’re unsure about other hazards, be sure to consult a safety professional.
It’s also important to identify industry-specific risks. For example, at an outdoor construction site, the weather can change the floor conditions in an instant. In this case, it’s better to consult experienced construction workers who are capable of identifying and controlling worksite hazards.
- To assess the severity of the risks
By analysing how much damage each risk can cause, you and your colleagues can prioritise the most urgent issues.
- To mitigate the risks
The control measures that you implement should be reasonably practicable and remain effective for a significant period of time. For example, if a walkway is uneven, you should aim to permanently fix that part of the floor. Simply putting up a warning sign next to it is not a long-term solution.
- To analyse the effectiveness of the control measures set in place
After a certain period of time, you should review the control measures that you’ve set in place to make sure that they are working. If not, you’ll need to make the appropriate adjustments.
- Good housekeeping
Simply keeping your place of business clean and organised can go a long way in improving workplace safety. For example, clearing the walkways of clutter significantly reduces the chances of an employee tripping over an object.
To make sure your floors are clear of clutter you can do things like placing rubbish bins throughout the workplace, providing sufficient storage space for employees, and having a regular cleaning routine. Since spillages are also a common cause for slipping, you should also clean up spills as soon as they are identified.
In addition, make sure to repair any cracks, dents, or holes on your floor. Such damage can create an uneven surface and cause employees to lose balance. If you can’t repair the damage immediately, be sure to place a temporary warning sign near it.
Also, most offices will have power cords running all across the floor. If not organised properly, these cords can pose a tripping hazard. Use cable clips to keep the cords around the perimeter of walkways or use cable protectors to cover exposed cables.
- Install safety products
Once you’re done with housekeeping, consider investing in various safety products. This might be in the form of anti-slip tape, stair nosings or safety mats. These products should provide sufficient grip, preventing you from slipping. They also come in high-visibility colours to warn people of a change in levels or an uneven surface.
Such products should be installed in places where slip and trips are common. This includes steps, stair landings, ramps as well as entrances and exits where there’s a change in flooring materials.
For spaces that are prone to getting wet (i.e. parts of a commercial kitchen), make sure to use floor mats that can soak up the spillages. Be sure to use non-skid mats to prevent it slipping out from underneath someone.
- Proper lighting
It also helps to pay attention to the lighting. It doesn’t matter how clean your office space is, if no one can see where they’re going, there’s a high chance of them slipping or tripping.
Because of this, it’s important to properly illuminate high-risk areas like hallways, staircases and access points. You can do this via a spotlight or LED strips embedded on the floor.
- Ensure appropriate footwear is being worn by employees
Sometimes, all of these precautionary steps aren’t going to be enough. Active workplaces like construction sites and kitchens constantly face changing environments and minor accidents. The employees at your workplace need to be prepared for these conditions.
In such a case, it’s important that the workers wear the proper footwear. For example, shoes with urethane or rubber soles are generally great for providing grip in various floor conditions.
As a PCBU, you should make safety footwear a requirement if the workplace environment calls for it.
These were just a few methods that you can use to make your workplace safer. Depending on your business, you may have to take into account other factors. Indeed, it’s important to meet with your work associates and discuss industry-specific hazards. If you require assistance, there are plenty of government resources online that can help you improve workplace safety.