Fact Sheet: Slips, trips and falls

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1 Fact Sheet: Slips, trips and falls Slips, Trips & Falls Slips, Trips and Falls are one of the highest causes of workplace injuries. They include those, which occur on the same level as a result of uneven or slippery surfaces (such as smooth, sloping, wet and oily surfaces), as well as falls from height due to falls down steps, off ladders etc. The causes of such incidents can range from incorrect footwear, inattention, poor lighting or unpredictable work environment. While the employer has primary responsibilities for workplace safety, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 requires workers to co-operate with their employer s efforts to meet safety obligations and to take reasonable care for the health and safety of other people in the workplace. Slips, trips and falls on the same level are common incidents at work and can cause serious injury or death. You can take some easy steps to reduce the risk of an incident. These steps are: 1. Find the problem or hazard 2. Check it out 3. Fix it 4. Look at it again A WorkCover Guide on Preventing slips, trips and falls can be downloaded here Preventing slips, trips and falls: Guide. Ensure Safe Access to Places of Work Managers and supervisors must ensure safe access to all places of work. Workplace OHS inspections and good housekeeping practices must be 1

2 implemented to eliminate or control potential slip, trip and fall hazards in the workplace. Floors must be designed and maintained to be safe without risks of slips, trips or falls and with adequate lighting provided to enable safe movement around the workplace. Where any faults are identified they should be reported to management for rectification. Identifying hazards and working together to fix them is everyone s responsibility. Use the OHS consultation arrangements set up in your workplace and refer to the WorkCover Code of Practice OHS Consultation 2001 for further advice. All workers can identify hazards. Ask yourself questions such as: Is my work area wet, slippery or cluttered? Do I need to move suddenly on slippery floors? How do I access high areas? Are the floors in my workplace wet or oily? Are there untidy work areas, cluttered aisles or passageways where I work? Are there steep or slippery steps, stairs, ramps or ladders where I work? Are there poorly lit work areas and walk ways where I work? Are there unguarded edges and unguarded openings? Do I work at an inappropriate pace? Does my workplace layout make a slip, trip or fall hazard? Do my work procedures make a slip, trip or fall hazard? How old is this flooring? Is it past its used by date (is it more than 10 years old)? 2

3 Is the floor very shiny or waxy? Has the floor been polished too much? Identify Slip and Trip Hazards Slips usually occur when there is a loss of grip between the shoe and the floor. Trips occur when a person s foot hits a low object in their path, causing a loss of balance. Some factors that contribute to the risk of slips and trips include: Tasks that create floor contaminants, either wet (eg water, oil) or dry (eg dust, paper); Floor surface or illumination level not suitable for activities; Footwear not appropriate to the task or work environment; Inadequate cleaning arrangements/procedures/products; Uneven floor levels, loose floor coverings and joints between flooring materials; Storage of objects in walkways and traffic routes; Distractions in the workplace; The need to rush tasks; Environmental factors (e.g. wet weather, frost, heat or cold stress); Individual factors (e.g. eyesight, medical conditions, certain medications, response to heat/cold/noise/stress). Employers must implement a Workplace s Risk Management Policy to identify, assess, eliminate or control, monitor and review slip and trip hazards in the workplace. A sample Hazard Checklist and Slips is provided below, a Slips, Trips and Falls Risk Management Tool could also be used for the identification and prevention of slips, trips and falls. 3

4 Any hazards you have found can contribute to a slip, trip and a fall on the same level. Report and discuss all hazards with your supervisor. Follow your organisation s safety procedures when hazards are identified. CHECK IT OUT (ASSESS) The next step is to identify the causes of the hazard. Sometimes there will be a single and obvious cause but often it will be a combination of causes contributing to the problem. Some of these causes may not be obvious. For example, a person tripping in the hall could identify poor lighting ( I couldn t see the step ), as well as feeling that they needed to rush to keep up with job demands. Next determine the likelihood of an incident occurring and the level of harm that could result from any hazards identified. This should be done with your supervisor and in accordance with your organisation s safety procedures. Ask questions such as: Is the problem in a busy area, near moving machinery/equipment or not likely to be seen? How soon does the hazard need to be fixed? If the hazard is posing an immediate problem such as an oil spill on the floor in a busy area, it is important to fix it immediately. Consider the risk to visitors, contractors, customers or other people coming into your workplace. They may not be as aware of the risks as you are. FIX IT (ELIMINATE OR CONTROL IT) On some occasions you can take action to immediately control the problem. For example, if you come across a spill, you can wipe it up or otherwise deal with it in accordance with your workplace safety procedures. However, if this is a recurring problem, management should identify what is causing it and rectify it. EXAMPLES OF ACTIONS THAT CAN BE TAKEN 4

5 SpPROBLEM Spillage of wet or dry substances Floor coverings Floor cleaning Unguarded floor Openings Type of footwear Wet or dirty footwear, or wet clothing EXAMPLES OF ACTIONS THAT CAN BE TAKEN Know your workplace procedures for cleaning up spills. Where it is appropriate, clean up spills as soon as possible. If the area is still wet after the cleaning process, use warning signs or provide alternative access. Identify problems with the condition and placement of the mats/rugs, and method of securing them to the floor. People can slip on wet floors or trip over electrical cords. Avoid wet mopping, vacuuming or using a floor polisher during busy times. Clean floors in accordance with manufacturer s instructions. Report any openings in the floor that are not protected by barriers or guards. Wear the most appropriate footwear for the job and work environment. Refer to your workplace policy on appropriate footwear. Before entering a building, wipe your shoes on available mats and shake off wet clothing or umbrellas. Use storage where wet items can be placed, such as bins for wet umbrellas. 5

6 Poor lighting Untidy areas Rubbish Stairs Ramps Outdoors surfaces Carrying items and moving loads Excessive workloads Ladders Report to your supervisor any lighting that is inadequate to see the floor or any obstacles. Keep your workplace tidy, keep walkways clear and make sure cords and cables are out of the way. Make sure objects don t create a trip hazard. Ensure paper, food, packaging, and other rubbish is removed and that bins don t overflow. Report any damaged steps, treads or handrails. Don t use stairways for storage. If ramps are too steep or slippery, report the problem. Be aware of problems in outdoors areas such as wet or uneven surfaces, potholes, rocks, rubble and other obstacles. Take appropriate action to address the problem such as arranging maintenance, repairing damaged surfaces or using cleaning agents. Carry items so that you can clearly see where you have to go. Don t carry loads that are too heavy. Make sure there are no protruding items likely to cause a problem, such as dangling cords. Use mechanical aids or team lifting where appropriate. Avoid running and rushing around. Report workload problems to your supervisor Use ladders in accordance with the manufacturer s information on safe use. Report damaged ladders to your supervisor. 6

7 PREVENT FALLS FROM HEIGHT Activities where there is a risk of falling from height (or into depth) include, but are not limited to: work on rooftop or ladders; climbing rocks, trees or walls; cleaning external windows; climbing stairs entering natural or man-made cavities and shafts, including confined spaces Employers must implement a Workplaces Risk Management Policy to identify, assess, eliminate or control, monitor and review all such activities. It is essential that risk assessments and safe work procedures (or safe work method statements) are documented and training/instruction is provided. Risk control measures must be implemented in accordance with legislative requirements and the Hierarchy of Risk Controls: provide and maintain a stable and securely fenced work platform, or if not practicable a secure physical barrier, or if not practicable a fall arrest system; provide a safe means of movement between different levels; if a fall arrest device is provided ensure that anchorage points are tested before first use and on a regular basis and if faulty are made inoperable, and any harness, safety line or other component of the device that shows wear or weakness is not used, and all persons using the device have received induction and training, and 7

8 adequate provision is made for the rescue of a person whose fall is arrested by the device (including scheduled practice in the rescue procedure). When allocating tasks that involve working at height, supervisors must account for the capacity of each individual to complete the task safely (eg their eyesight, medical conditions or medications that affect balance, response to heat/cold/noise/stress). Individuals must inform their supervisor of any factor that may impact on their capacity to work safely at height. Prevent Falling Objects Activities where there is a risk of falling objects include, but are not limited to: raising or lowering plant, material and debris; storing objects on high shelves or rooftop; demolishing a structure. Managers and supervisors must implement the Workplace OHS Risk Management Policy to identify, assess, eliminate or control, monitor and review all such activities. It is essential that risk assessments and safe work procedures (or safe work method statements) are documented and training/instruction is provided. Risk control measures must be implemented in accordance with legislative requirements and the Hierarchy of Risk Controls: provide a safe means of raising or lowering objects; provide a secure physical barrier to prevent objects falling freely from a building or structure, or if not possible then provide measures to arrest the fall of objects; provide appropriate personal protective equipment. 8

9 Particular Risk Control Measures for High Risk Activities Employers are responsible for implementing the particular risk control measures for falls prevention and falling objects for high risk activities under their control, as detailed in the OHS Regulations This includes: access to brittle or fragile roofs, working on or over confined spaces, use of scaffolding or portable work platforms, entering and working in lift wells, and building maintenance and construction. SAMPLE HAZARD CHECKLIST CHECKLIST FOR THE PREVENTION OF SLIPS, TRIPS AND FALLS ON THE SAME LEVEL If any of these hazards are ticked yes further action is needed Risk Assessment Floors Yes No Can water be walked onto smooth floors (e.g. foyers) on rainy days? Are there any hard, smooth floors in wet or oily areas? Are there any leaks of fluids onto the floor from processes or machines? Is poor drainage causing pooling of fluids? Are there any floor surface transitions not easily noticed (any ridge that is as high as a footwear sole or higher)? Is there any ice or water on cold room floors? Is the floor slippery when wet? 9

10 Is there poor drainage causing pooling of fluids? Are any anti-slip paint, coating profiles or tapes worn smooth or damaged? Are there any isolated low steps (commonly at doorways)? Are there any trip hazards due to equipment and other objects left on the floor? Are there any raised carpet edges or holes worn in carpets? Are there any tiles becoming unstuck or curling at the edges? Are there any holes or unevenness in the floor surface? Stairs and ramps Yes No Is the lighting insufficient for ramps or steps to be seen clearly and without glare? Do any steps have too small a rise or tread or an excessive nosing? Are any step edges (nosings) slippery or hard to see? Are the steps uneven or are there excessive variations in step dimensions? Are handrails inadequate on stairs? Are ramps too steep, or too slippery? Lighting Yes No Is there insufficient lighting in passageways and at flooring transitions, ramps or stairs? Does the lighting throw distracting shadows or produce excessive glare? 10

11 Outdoor areas Yes No Is there a build up of moss or other vegetation on pathways? Are there any surface transitions not easily noticed (any ridge that is as high as a footwear sole or higher)? Are there potholes in footpaths or walkways? Housekeeping Yes No Is there a build-up of polish on floors? Is there an excessive residue of detergent? Do employees have to walk on floors wet from washing? Are wet floor signs not available or not used correctly? Do you need to provide information / training / advice to contractors regarding cleaning procedures? Are paper, rubbish, dirt, spills etc. left on the floor? Are aisles poorly marked and cluttered? Are any anti-slip paint and coating profiles or tapes worn smooth or damaged? Are there any trip hazards due to equipment and other movable objects left lying on the ground? Do spills (wet or dry) occur regularly during work processes? Tasks Yes No 11

12 Do employees have to walk or work on greasy, oily or wet floors that are not adequately slip resistant? Do loads that are carried or pushed interfere with forward vision? Are the loads to be carried excessive or likely to upset a person s balance? Do heavy trolleys have to be pushed up ramps? Are employees hurried due to time constraints? Footwear Yes No Do the employees shoes lack grip? Are the tread patterns on footwear too worn? Are the tread patterns clogged with dirt? Checklist completed by: Date: / / Risk Controls Implemented: Yes No Checked by: Date: / / 12

13 Useful Resources Safe working at heights: Guide Work at heights 13

14 Slips, Trips and Falls Risk Management Tool NSW Code of Practice- RISK ASSESSMENT NSW Code of Practice OHS Consultation 2001 See also Unionsafe fact sheet Safe work at heights This material was developed by Unions NSW with the assistance of The Workers Health Centre as part of a project funded under the WorkCover NSW WorkCover Assist Program. Any views expressed are not necessarily those of WorkCover NSW. For more information please contact your union. This Fact Sheet is recommended as a guide only and is not a substitute for professional or legal advice. If you need clarification or further advice please consult your Union for further information 14

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