The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed that slips and trips in the workplace are accountable for over £500 million in costs each year, so it is no surprise to hear that floor cleaning should play an integral part in reducing the risk of injury.
With 90% of slips resulting in broken bones, slips and trips are no laughing matter for either the victim or employer, which could even result in legal action.
Further bad news; if you aren’t doing your bit as an employer to control slips and trips risks, you may not be complying with The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974). The good news? Effective solutions are simple, inexpensive and will help you rest easy that you’re doing everything necessary to minimise the risk of slips and trips.
Why is floor cleaning an important factor in controlling slips and trips?
1. It Reduces the Risk of Contamination
When a floor surface becomes contaminated with substances such as water, oil or dust which are common causes of accidents, the possibility of a slip accident occurring increases. This is particularly true when the floor has a smooth surface such as standard vinyl, glazed ceramic tiles, varnished wood or some metal floors. Here, even a tiny amount of contamination can present a real slip problem. Naturally, improving the frequency and thoroughness of floor cleaning will help remove contamination and can reduce the number of accidents.
2. It Allows Effective Management of Hazards Presented to Cleaners and to Others
For those undertaking the cleaning process slip and trip hazards can happen to both themselves and to others entering the area being cleaned. The HSE puts this into context, identifying trip and slip hazards such as slippery smooth floors left damp by a mop or trailing wires from a vacuum or buffing machine. These are circumstances which those in the cleaning profession should approach with caution.
Trips and slips are often likely to occur where floors are in a poor condition, so these should be repaired and highlighted as a potential risk by using barriers, locking doors, or cleaning in sections.
3. It Recognises the Links Between Cleaning and Reported Accidents
Although not often recognised as a dangerous profession, reported major accident figures show cleaning is a high risk for slips and trips. By being aware of these dangers to both themselves and to others, cleaners can play a greater part in reducing the number of slips and trips.
It is also important to recognise the risk that cleaners face as an employer, making sure they are provided with the appropriate slip-resistant footwear, and any other personal protective equipment which must be provided free of charge to employees.
How should I approach floor care with the possibility to reduce slips or trips?
The HSE has divided control measures of preventing slips and trips in three areas –
1. Management Systems
Like all areas of health and safety, a good management system is required. This includes planning to make sure that the right cleaning regime is chosen for the type of flooring in question. There should also be a plan in place to clean up any spillages in between whole floor cleaning. Control, monitoring and review are vitally important to make sure that processes are being carried out properly, and to look for any areas for potential improvement.
Good communication is a must at all levels to ensure messages are effective and that the right action is taken. An example of where this might take place is between equipment and chemical suppliers to ensure suitability of a product for the type of contaminant and floor.
2. Contamination Control
The best way to stop a potential trip or slip from happening, is to prevent contamination of the dry floor. Carry out spot cleaning on a regular basis, and consider who is best placed to carry out this work on a regular basis.
To effectively remove the contaminant in question, the correct cleaning regime is required. The following suggestions are made –
• use the correct amount of the right cleaning product
• allow detergents enough time to work on greasy floors
• maintain cleaning equipment so it remains effective
• use a dry mop or squeegee on wet floors to reduce floor-drying time, but remember, while the floor is damp there is still a slip risk
• even using a well-wrung mop will leave a thin film of water, sufficient enough to create a slip risk on a smooth floor
• spot clean where possible
3. Obstacle Removal
Obstructions and objects left lying around can easily go unnoticed and cause a trip accident, and should be addressed.
Cables and leads – cleaning should preferably take place during quiet times or outside of working hours to reduce the possibility of people tripping over cables. Minimise the operating length of a cable, use effective signs and barriers and disconnect and tidy away equipment after use.
Rubbish – safely remove and dispose of any waste items which might cause a trip hazard.
Uneven floors – cleaners and supervisors should report any flooring defects to the occupier such as curling mats, peeling or missing carpet tiles, holes or changes in level.
Lighting – poor lighting can make obstacles less visible, increasing the risk of a fall. Areas with poor lighting should be reported.
Housekeeping – trip hazards for cleaning hazards and spillages should be made aware to occupiers. Cleaning equipment should not be left unattended, and should be safely stored when in use.
Using the right cleaning methods checklist
- Make sure that your cleaning method is effective for the type of floor you have
- Don’t introduce more slip or trip risks while cleaning is being done
- Leave smooth floors dry after cleaning or exclude pedestrians until the floor is dry
- Remove spillages promptly
- Have effective arrangements for both routine cleaning and dealing with spills
- Use the appropriate detergent mixed at the correct concentration
In order to help you identify slip and trip hazards in the workplace, and provide suggested actions to resolve them, download the HSE Slips and Trips Hazard Spotting Checklist. Also, don’t forget to check you have all the floor care supplies available to effectively reduce the risk of contamination and clear up any spills.