Slips occur when the foot and floor cannot make effective contact, usually when something has been spilt, or when the shoe sole and floor finish are unsuited.
Trips occur when an obstruction prevents normal movement of the foot resulting in loss of balance, usually caused by objects on the floor or uneven surfaces.
Following are some areas to examine when conducting a risk assessment.
The workplace should be properly designed in the first instance to ensure adequate space, planned walkways, and adequate lighting.
Contamination is not limited to liquids. Dust or loose particulates can also cause slip hazards due to loss of grip. Obstructions from lack of storage or poor housekeeping create the corresponding trip hazard. Required precautions include:
- Good housekeeping to keep the workplace free of clutter and obstructions;
- Suitable cleaning materials, methods and equipment to properly clean up spills and other contaminants; and
- Management control of cleaning and maintenance activities to ensure no additional hazards are introduced.
Flooring should be specified to ensure that it has sufficient slip resistance to cope with its intended use.
Where floor surfaces of different slip resistance join it should be visually apparent. A pedestrian going from a high to low friction surface is more likely to slip if they do not adjust their gait accordingly.
‘Sensible footwear’ policies, specifying flat shoes to maximise sole/floor contact and friction, have been shown to be effective in reducing the numbers of slip incidents.
Floors likely to be used by ‘high risk’ groups (such as the very young, the very old, disabled or infirm) should offer a greater slip resistance.
Floors used for transporting of significant loads by pulling or pushing should also offer a greater frictional resistance as workers will need good traction to gain momentum. Monitoring for wear and tear will also be important.
Inappropriate behaviour such as running or horseplay can be a major contributing factor in a slip on an otherwise safe floor. Managers should look to lead by example, demonstrating expected behaviours, and also to ensure that employees are properly informed and trained, that they understand their roles and responsibilities under safe systems of work and regular workplace inspections are undertaken to ensure issues are identified and addressed.