The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has revealed that slips, trips and fall hazards 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, and they could even result in legal action.
If you aren’t doing your bit as an employer to mitigate 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 assured that you’re doing everything necessary to minimise the risk of slips and trips.
How can we reduce slips and trips?
Slips, trips and falls were responsible for 29% of employee injuries in 2016-17, and they are the most common type of non-fatal workplace injury. Everyone – employers and employees – have a responsibility to protect wellbeing at work. If this means altering routine or best practice slightly, then that should be done. Employers should put measures and procedures in place, and employees should follow them.
Reducing and preventing slips and trips
Slips occur when a person’s feet lose adequate contact with the floor’s surface. This can be due to liquids, dust, loose flooring or even uneven surfaces. Especially in winter, trails of damp, leaves or mud from the outside can make flooring slippy. Untended to spillages or puddles can also be destabilising.
To prevent slips, floors should be designed to prevent slipping. This means choosing a material that creates friction: whether that is carpet, tiling or linoleum. Spillages should be cleaned immediately, and a wet floor sign should be put out to alert people of the risk. It’s also highly advised to use the correct cleaning materials and products for the type of flooring you have and to make use of specialist anti-slip equipment like tape, mats and covers to limit the risk to workers.
To prevent slips, trips and falls you should focus on improving standards in three main areas, set out by HSE:
This primarily involves planning to make sure that the right cleaning regimen is in place for each type of flooring in the workplace, there is a proper procedure for cleaning spillages promptly, and regular workplace safety reviews are carried out.
Effective cleaning should be carried out whenever there is floor contamination (spillage). This means that regular spot cleaning should be built into your cleaning procedure, and cleaners are effectively trained on proper floor cleaning methods.
When cleaning you should:
- 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
Along with ensuring that floors are clean and spillages are tackled immediately, removing any potentially dangerous obstacles from floorspaces is advised. This includes cables and leads, rubbish, and cleaning equipment itself.
Trips happen when people’s feet are obstructed or momentarily caught, resulting in somebody falling forwards or backwards, and potentially injuring themselves. Hazards can be anything that is unexpectedly lying on the floor, like cables, loose flooring, bags, rugs and even sudden changes in floor level.
To prevent trips, it’s important that all staff are responsible for the items that they leave around the workplace. You may want to impose a rule that all coats be left on a coat hook, and all bags be left under desks. Items like cables and rugs should be secured down to the floor. If necessary, you should also improve lighting so that workers are not limited by darkness – especially in winter.
To reduce the risk of trips you should:
- Be aware of trailing cables, if necessary, work on small sections of the floor at a time so that cables don’t trail over a long distance
- Maintain the area effectively: look out for frayed carpet, curled rugs, loose tiles
- Implement personal belongings best practice: remind staff to store bags under desks or in drawers, and coats on a coat hook
- Ensure proper manual handling to reduce the risk of a trip when carrying large loads
- Make sure that there is adequate lighting in corridors or on stairwells
Slips, trips and falls risk assessment example
In order to help you identify slip and trip hazards in the workplace, and provide suggested actions to resolve them, download the HSE Slips Trips and Falls 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.