Fall-related accidents are associated with high-risk industries such as roofing and construction, but they can also occur in other work environments that aren’t normally associated with workplace accidents. While most jobs don’t require working on elevated surfaces, any ground-level walkway, pathway and flooring surface can also have hazards that may cause incidents. According to OSHA, the category called slips, trips and falls make up the majority of accidents across all industries.
Preventing these mishaps and the costly compensation claims they lead to should be a priority for facility and operations professionals. For those that need assistance managing those risks, Xpera Group, a commercial real estate consulting firm, has Certified Walkway Auditors on their team that can help. They can conduct a professional analysis of your building site to identify any potential fall, trip, or slip hazards.
With our assistance, you’ll get expert advice how to prevent slips, trips, and falls at work before they occur. Below are some basic measures an owner or business can do to minimize the risks.
OSHA compliance requires fall protection for any work that is done above ground or floor level. There is a good reason for this, as falls normally occur when workers don’t use or have no access to vital safety measures. As an employer, you must make sure that industrial ladders with the appropriate weight rating are present and used correctly. Providing the workers with personal arrest equipment is another reliable way to protect against falls.
Mud, ice, damp floors, or oil spills are all common forms of slip hazards, but there are numerous other cases. For example, a newly applied surface coating (such as paint) can also be considered a slip hazard in the right circumstances. In the industry, they are called surface contaminants since they are a substance between the walkable surface and your shoes.
The obvious protocol to deal with unwanted contaminants is to clean them up and/or contain the affected surface if it is temporary.
Slip Hazard Notifiers
Large and highly visible cones or signs can help alert workers to contained spills, usually by placing them around the perimeter of the hazard. The risk is still there, but the signage will help guide them away from the affected area. To help create a more visible border, caution tape can be used.
Notifiers go only so far. If the workers spend much of their time near the hazards, they can start getting accustomed to its presence, and therefore less careful.
When it comes to how to prevent slip accidents at work, setting and following cleaning protocols can save you a lot of trouble.
To start, clean mops and wet vacs should be made readily available to the workers and designated for individual work zones. The work zones are important because many times the cleaning tools themselves can be a source of contaminants. For example, If the same cleaning equipment used in a kitchen area is then used to clean the floor of a dining area or walkway, the unbroken-down contaminants can be spread through the “cleaning” process.
Additionally, make sure you are using the right cleaning products for the type(s) of flooring you have. Using the wrong cleaning products can result in what appears to be a clean dry floor turning into a slip-n-slide when the floor gets wet and the leftover dried cleaning product on the surface emulsifies.
For work environments that have higher slip risk, anti-slip mats and enforcing workers to use slip-resistant footwear can make a big difference. In some cases, industrial-grade floor mats and specialized drainage systems may be necessary.
Poor lighting and cluttered floors are a major cause of trips. This is an especially a high risk where materials and equipment are moved regularly, such as construction or warehouse shipping.
Tools, boxes, extension cords, and materials should be kept in special containers or organized in storage rooms or staging areas. Special care should be taken to plug, barricade, or cover up any holes in the floor in order to prevent workers tripping on them or falling into them. The workspace should be well lit.
Some trip hazards can be caused by a building deficiency, such as a raised corner or crack in a concrete flooring section. Depending on the business space lease agreement, business owners may need to send notice to the facility management company to get it repaired, or have a contractor repair it themselves.
How to prevent slips, trips, and falls at work with a facility assessment or walkway audit
According to OSHA, the majority of workplace trips, slips, and falls could’ve been avoided by following recommended practices to identify hazards and then take steps to prevent or control them.
One way to follow OSHA's Recommended practices for hazard identification for buildings and facilities is to have the business owner hire a real estate consultant to perform an enhanced property condition assessment or a walkway audit.
After retaining the consultant, they would visit the workplace and perform a walk-through survey of all the accessible areas of the building(s). They would document conditions and, if they are a Certified Walkway Auditor, test the surface friction at critical areas. The resulting report would advise the business owner a list of issues to address plus action items to take to minimize the risks of accidents.
Many business owners make the mistake of trying to do their own assessment without outside help or staff with professional facility management experience. Their reasoning is that personal observations - their own, or of their employees - are enough to identify all the hazard spots.
Don’t take this risk.
There are often subtle conditions that can contribute to the accident, and many facilities usually have locations no one pays much attention to until it’s too late. For example, a corner of a kitchen may have been repeatedly poorly cleaned and thus has soap buildup; a wet shoe can activate the contaminant and loose friction, causing a slip.
Professional facility assessments do it right
As with all things that have to do with people’s safety, the question of how to prevent slips, trips, and falls at work is best answered by the experts. Xpera Group’s Certified Walkway Auditors can assess your facility using a rigorous inspection process rooted in building science. They have access to specialized cutting-edge equipment that can measure conditions such as surface friction.
Furthermore, we can repeat these assessments on a regular basis to make sure your flooring and walkways stays safe and hazards are minimized. In the case of a slip, trip and fall claim, you can use the reports along with maintenance records to demonstrate the facility went above and beyond to minimize the risks. Reach out to Xpera Group today and let us help you and your employees avoid workplace risks.