Preventing slips, trips and falls

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Slips, trips and falls can be prevented in workplaces.  Awareness of the common risk factors for slips, trips and falls coupled with a strong management commitment, can result in reduction and prevention of slips, trips and falls incidents.

Risk management

Like any other hazard in the workplace, prevention begins with a risk management approach such as spot the hazard, assess the risk and make the changes.  This should be done in full consultation with your staff at each stage.  Please refer to the Slips, trips and falls risk management worksheet here for further assistance with the risk assessment process.

Hazard identification 

Hazards can be identified by reviewing hazard reports and incident reports, talking with your staff and completing walk-throughs or workplace inspections to identify potential hazards.

Risk assessment 

Assessing the risk involves identifying all of the risk factors that are present that may contribute to the risk of a slip or trip, and determining the potential likelihood and consequences of a slip or trip occurring.  

Risk factors that contribute to slips and trips injuries will vary according to the type of workplace and work tasks being completed.  It is not uncommon for several risk factors to exist at any onetime.

Common risk factor categories include:

  • floor surface & condition; 
  • floor contamination; 
  • objects on the floor; 
  • ability to see floor/ walkways/ hazards; 
  • cleaning/ spill containment; 
  • space & design; 
  • stairs & stepladders; 
  • work activities, pace & processes; 
  • footwear & clothing; and 
  • individual factors.

Controls and review

Finally, making changes is about implementing controls that eliminate or reduce the identified risk factors.  Do not forget that all-important step of reviewing the solutions after they have been put in place to make sure that they are effective, and have not introduced any new hazards to the workplace.

There are many controls that employers can use to prevent slips and trips in the workplace. Firstly though, it is important to complete hazard identification and a risk assessment in consultation with your staff. This will ensure that the right control is chosen for the hazards that are relevant in your workplace, and prevents costly changes down the track if the wrong control is implemented. Quite often, a range of controls is needed to effectively control the risk.

Common controls

Common controls used in workplaces can be categorised according to the hierarchy of controls:

Eliminate the hazard

  • Regularly maintain and inspect machinery and production processes to prevent, identify and eliminate leaks onto floor surfaces. 
  • Eliminate changes in floor levels at design stage. 
  • Choosing appropriate floor surface for the type of work and work tasks being performed at design stage. 
  • Choosing floor surfaces that are consistent in slip resistances/friction levels when people move between different floor surfaces at design stage. 
  • Install more (or suspend) power outlets to eliminate hazards of cords on floors. 
  • Providing adequate space to perform tasks (eg aisle width – general guide minimum of 1m, but will depend on the work tasks and risk assessment). 
  • Ensure adequate storage for goods, trolleys, personal belongings etc to eliminate clutter or obstructions in walkways. 
  • Install exhaust systems to prevent dust or vapours from settling onto floors. 
  • Install suitable drainage to eliminate contaminants on floor surfaces.

Substitution

  • Re-surface floors with less hazardous materials.

Isolation

  • Restrict access to work areas identified as higher risk for slips, trips and falls

Engineering controls (minimising risk by redesign)

  • Apply floor treatments to increase slip resistance (look under 'floor treatment products' in the Yellow Pages). 
  • Treat floor surfaces where surface changes occur to ensure a similar slip resistance of both surfaces. 
  • Improve lighting of work areas and use graduated lighting to prevent sudden changes in lighting levels between work areas. 
  • Maintain/ repair equipment or pipes that are leaking. 
  • Provide well-positioned drainage to prevent pooling of contaminants. 
  • Clearly mark walkways, edges of steps and any changes in floor heights or surface types. 
  • Ensure stairs have adequate depth, are even in step heights and have well marked edges.  
  • Setting mats into the floor surfaces to eliminate any height variations. 
  • Providing ramps instead of steps for floor level changes, with ramp gradient no more than 1:8 and a slip resistant ramp surface. 
  • Where trolleys are used on ramps, ensure that ramps have handrails, mid rails and kick rails on both sides to prevent trolleys from rolling off ramp edge. 
  • Use of dock levelers in loading docks to reduce risks associated with gaps between surfaces. 
  • Provide stair climbing trolleys to prevent workers carrying items while climbing stairs. 
  • Review storage areas to minimise or eliminate the need to move items between different floors. 
  • Provide appropriate steps, stepladders and work platforms to reach items at height (remove and inappropriate items, such as overturned milk crates).

Administrative controls

  • Implement good housekeeping practices (clean as you go; keeping access ways clear; prompt spills management; keeping floors, ramps & stairs clean & dry; regular rubbish removal; appropriate storage of equipment). 
  • Ensure that regular floor cleaning occurs outside working hours where practicable, or where not practicable, implement systems to prevent people walking on surfaces which are still wet. 
  • Regular workplace inspections of internal and external floor surfaces to identify early wear or damage. 
  • Use of signage or barricades for wet or slippery areas. 
  • Training for staff in identifying risk factors for slips/trips and controls to manage risks. 
  • Supervision of staff. 
  • Clear procedures for reporting damage to floors, surfaces, and equipment.

Personal protective equipment

  • Clear footwear policy (fully enclosed, stable, well fitted footwear with appropriate soles to prevent slips/trips). 
  • Monitoring/ supervision of employee adherence to footwear policies. 
  • Provision of appropriate safety footwear may be required in certain workplaces. 
  • Ensure footwear work by workers is appropriate for tasks being completed.

Training

Everyone involved in organising and implementing processes that may introduce or control slips, trips and falls hazards should be trained in risk management for slips, trips and falls.

The level, length and type of training provided should be tailored and comparable to the risk involved and the role of the participants involved in the risk management process. Any training should focus on the specific problems identified in the assessment process and take on a participatory approach. Depending on the degree of risk, participants should have an understanding of some or all of:

  • the key sections of the OSH Regulations relating to slips, trips and falls;
  • the role and responsibilities of the employer, workers and others and the consultation which should take place between employer and works in order to identify slips, trips and falls hazards and to assess and control risks;
  • risk factors and potential sources of risk of slips, trips and falls;
  • the risk management approach to slips, trips and falls; and 
  • the application of relevant controls strategies.

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