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Whether you are a plant manager or business owner, managing your site and preventing staff and visitors from suffering accidents will require vigilance, strong processes and the right materials. Following are some key considerations to help reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls in the workplace.
Perform regular inspections of your site to ensure any defects or hazards are noted and addressed. If your workplace is inherently dangerous, you may need to hire a safety manager or train supervisors to monitor the workplace for dangers. You should also make sure your employees know what to do if they encounter a potential hazard.
Clearly mark all potentially dangerous areas with signage. This keeps hazards that might go unnoticed in the front of everyone’s mind. People are more aware of where they put their feet when they see a "watch your step" sign.
Once you've identified the risks at your site, formulate a plan to help employees avoid injury for each risk. Break down the risks as part of a risk assessment and make a list of all the steps that must be taken to prevent an accident. This may sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at the number of organizations that ignore such steps, especially those in low-risk environments. Remember, accidents can happen anywhere.
Once you have established the nature of the potential hazards to mitigate, you should choose the right flooring to ensure safety. If your site is largely outdoors, consider a material that is weather-resistant and remains slip-resistant even when wet. If aesthetics are a concern, anti-slip flooring panels can provide a discreet solution that blends in with the natural environment. Dangerous locations, like roof walkways and catwalks on industrial sites, often require a lightweight yet robust option to allow people to access certain areas without collapsing.
If your site is primarily indoors, your flooring should fit this purpose. However, if you have trolleys or carts wheeling around, carpet would not be the best solution. Areas where different flooring types meet should be highlighted as tripping hazards. Use threshold bars to create a smooth transition.
After you have installed your flooring, conduct regular inspections. Some flooring, such as stone or wood, can be easily damaged and create hazards at any time.
Avoiding hazards is easy when you can see them. That's why you should take into account what's hanging from your ceiling as much as what's lurking on the floor. Proper lighting in indoor corridors, stairwells and windowless areas will help keep hazards to a minimum. In outdoor areas, lights along walkways allow people to watch for hazards as well as promote security at night. Adequate lighting also enables visitors and staff to spot differences in flooring levels.
Both interior and exterior stairs are common tripping hazards. They can also lead to much more dangerous falls, which often result in significant injury and liability. Consider reinforcing your existing stairs with stair nosings to reduce the risk of slipping or falling.
High foot-traffic areas like entranceways should be fitted with anti-slip panels or pads. These can be affixed to a variety of surfaces, including wood, concrete, steel and open gratings. Also, be sure to use a hard-wearing solution in high-traffic areas.
Having the right materials in the right places is a simple way to mitigate the safety risks in your workplace. After completing a full risk assessment, you'll know exactly what measures you need to take and can then act accordingly.
Barry Eagle is the director of GripClad, a privately owned company supplying retro-fit and structural anti-slip flooring surfaces for industrial, commercial and public-access areas.