Construction Employers Federation. A Best Practice Guide to Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

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1 Construction Employers Federation A Best Practice Guide to Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls

2 FOREWORD Some of you may be surprised to know that slips and trips are one of the most common causes of serious injury in the Northern Ireland construction industry. The worst thing is, the bulk of these injuries could have been prevented with the minimum of effort. If everyone in the industry, from managing directors to new start apprentices, paid just a little more attention to preventing slips, trips and falls we would not only significantly reduce the number of injuries but we would save time and money also. In the construction industry in 2006, six people died, over 60 suffered a major injury and over 350 other injuries resulted in absence from work of over 3 days according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland. On top of this there are undoubtedly numerous unreported injuries. We need everyone involved in the industry to take greater responsibility for their own safety, the safety of their colleagues and the safety of their employees if we are to make any impact on the above figures. The Best Practice Guide to Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls is the second in a series of guides which seek to address the most common causes of serious injury and death in construction. I encourage you to use these guides as an aid to implementing better practice on your sites. JOHN R ARMSTRONG Managing Director Construction Employers Federation (CEF) PAGE 1

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4 CONTENTS 1. Purpose of Best Practice Guide 2. Main Causes of Injury from a Slip, Trip or Fall 3. Organisation: Employer s Duties 4. Organisation: Employee s Duties 5. Real Life Situations 6. Example of Unsafe Working Practices 7. Example of Safe Working Practices 8. Summary 9. References/Further Reading PAGE 3

5 1. PURPOSE OF BEST PRACTICE GUIDE The purpose of this Best Practice Guide to Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls is to provide advice and guidance to all persons involved in organising, planning, managing or undertaking work in construction related activities to eliminate and reduce risk of injury from slips, trips and falls. Both good and bad practice scenarios are documented to help clarify the expected best practice approaches that should be undertaken to ensure the safety of all persons working in construction related industries. This document is not a definitive guide. Slips, trips and falls on the same level are the most common cause of major injuries at work. They occur in almost all workplaces. 95% of major slips result in broken bones and they can also be the initial cause for a range of other accident types such as falls from height. The principles and practices stated in this document should be adopted, where reasonably practicable, by all CEF members. KEY MESSAGES ABOUT SLIPS AND TRIPS Slips and trips are serious Simple and minimal cost effective measures can reduce these accidents Statistically slips, trips and falls at work on average account for 25% of all accidents in Northern Ireland (HSENI Annual report) 33% of all reported major injuries 20% of over-3-day injuries to employees 2 fatalities per year 50% of all reported accidents to members of the public A 512 million per year cost to employers A 133 million per year cost to health service Incalculable human cost (Source HSE GB Construction Sector) PAGE 4

6 2. MAIN CAUSES OF INJURY FROM A SLIP, TRIP OR FALL The main causes of injury from a slip, trip or fall are: Walking over uneven ground, particularly when carrying large or unwieldy and awkward objects Tripping over building material not stacked correctly or waste materials carelessly disregarded Tripping over trailing cables Slipping caused by wet, gritty or icy surfaces Falling over due to soft and poor ground conditions Trips caused by small or sudden changes in level WHAT THE LAW SAYS The Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978 requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks. Employees must not endanger themselves or others and must use any safety equipment provided. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (NI) 2000 build on the Health and Safety At Work Order and include duties on employers to assess risks (including slip and trip risks) and where necessary take action to safeguard health and safety. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (NI) 1993 require floors to be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions. People must be able to move around their workplace safely. PAGE 5

7 3. ORGANISATION: EMPLOYER S DUTIES In line with HSG 155 (HSE Guidance in Managing Slips, Trips and Falls), employers should develop a suitable system of managing the workplace to eliminate and reduce slips, trips and falls. This management system should include, but not be limited to the following actions: PLAN TRAIN Plan deliveries to minimize the amount of materials on site and maintain safe access around site. Make proper arrangements for the removal of waste from the work area and its proper disposal in a safe and efficient location. Plan a system of keeping work and storage areas tidy. Plan designated walkways with good condition underfoot. Level the ground if rutted Stone the ground if muddy Grit the access route if slippy Where small changes of level cannot be avoided, arrange sound temporary ramps or some other way of providing safe and easy access. Work with your employees to identify potential problem areas and set goals for improvement. Plan to avoid having trailing cables by using cordless tools. Plan to place materials convenient to the area where they are to be used to reduce the need to carry objects over poor ground. Ensure all employees have the knowledge to identify and take action to remove or report potential risks. Ensure everyone on site knows to wear safety footwear that provides good grip. Instruct all employees to immediately clean up spillages that could cause someone to slip. Cardboard should not be used to absorb spillages as this itself presents a tripping hazard. PAGE 6

8 ORGANISE CONTROL MONITOR AND REVIEW CARRY OUT REGULAR RISK ASSESSMENTS Make employees and subcontracted employees responsible for specific areas. Make sure corridors, stairways, footpaths and other areas used by pedestrians are kept clear of any obstructions. Keep inside and outside work areas adequately lit. Keep dismount areas such as the foot of ladders and access stairs clean and free from obstructions. Hang cables from temporary electricity supply on site at high level or use ground level cable protection. Keep work areas tidy and use signs or barriers to warn people if obstructions can not be removed. Ensure working practices and processes are being carried out properly and, where appropriate, keep records of cleaning. Inspect all access routes daily to ensure they are free from obstructions. Talk with (not at) your employees so they can buy in and provide feedback on how measures are working. Look out for hazards like bad lighting, uneven floors and trailing cables. Decide who might be harmed and how. Consider less mobile people and visitors. Consider the risks, note any potential problems and do something about them. Record your findings. Regularly review the assessment. PAGE 7

9 4. ORGANISATION: EMPLOYEE S DUTIES Employees should take responsibility for their own and others health and safety. Here is a useful checklist to help improve safety for you and your colleagues in the workplace. No. Requirement Yes No N/A 1 Ensure you have adequate lighting available 2 Report any defects in any work equipment provided 3 Make sure your work area is even and clean 4 Mark slopes and changes of levels 5 Safely store cables 6 Remove any obstructions to an area where they will not be tripping hazards 7 Clear up spillages immediately 8 Clear your workplace as you go 9 Wear suitable footwear at all times 10 Consider safety measures for visitors 11 Follow the correct working procedure put in place and use your initiative to make your workplace safer 12 Plant operatives to report any defect to access steps into mobile equipment See a spillage? Instead of thinking it is someone else s problem, why not clear it up? Your actions could make the difference between someone getting injured or not. PAGE 8

10 5. REAL LIFE SITUATIONS (These real life situations can be used as tool box talks) 1 Following a night of heavy rain, a bricklayer with thirty years experience set about laying block on a 250mm stepped concrete foundation. The rain water was pumped out of the foundation but left a slippy silty material on top of the concrete surface. Stepping down from the higher level, he lost his footing, fell backwards onto the concrete step and broke some bones in his back. He never worked again. Weather conditions must be considered when planning access arrangements. 2 A visitor to site walked down a soil embankment to look at an area on the site where work was to be planned. He slipped and fell down the embankment and broke a bone in his ankle. He was off work for 12 weeks, requiring an operation to put a metal pin in his foot. The injured person sued the main contractor for personal injury compensation. Access arrangements to all areas of the site must be considered, with particular attention paid to visitors and members of the public. 3 An electrician was working off a stepladder inside a room of a building which had suitable natural sunlight levels. He dismounted the stepladder and made his way through the room door into the hallway which had temporary festoon lighting over half of the light bulbs were defective. Due to the sudden change in lighting levels he failed to see the 110v power tool cables trailing across the hall, he tripped and broke his wrist when he fell to the ground. He was off work for five weeks. Lighting levels and trailing cables must be considered when the building becomes water tight. 4 Following a wet period of weather on a large building site, mud began to build up on the steps leading into the site canteen. One unlucky site worker finished his lunch and slipped on the steps leaving the canteen. He fell 300mm and broke two bones in his back. He was in traction in hospital for a number of months and now carries a permanent minor disability. Routes leading to canteens toilets, stores, offices, ladder dismounts which are used several times during the day must be kept clean and free of slipping and tripping hazards at all times. 5 A sales representative visiting a site, left the site office and walked through the site to talk to a roofing contractor who he had made an appointment to see. He walked around the outside of the building when he took a phone call. As a result, his full attention was not on the uneven and untidy path and he stood on a nail which was protruding from a piece of timber. It is important that everyone on site wears safety boots with steel mid-soles and that everyone maintains full attention when they move around site. Nails should be removed or bent back. Access routes must be kept clear at all times. PAGE 9

11 6. EXAMPLES OF UNSAFE WORKING PRACTICES UNACCEPTABLE Tripping hazards at the top of a stairwell UNACCEPTABLE Tripping hazards at dismount of ladder UNACCEPTABLE Unsafe access into building UNACCEPTABLE Tripping hazards on a main route through site. Slipping hazard from wet surface UNACCEPTABLE Tripping hazards at a cutting table on site UNACCEPTABLE Electric cables trailed across this main access route can cause someone to fall PAGE 10

12 7. EXAMPLES OF SAFE WORKING PRACTICES GOOD PRACTICE A safe access route into a house GOOD PRACTICE Clean and safe access to the site. Tidy storage of materials in compound. Clear presentation of site rules GOOD PRACTICE A brightly lit and tidy work area GOOD PRACTICE A designated safe walkway Pictures courtesy of HSE GOOD PRACTICE Clean and tidy storage container with a secure cage for tools and equipment PAGE 11

13 8. SUMMARY The cause of slips, trips and falls in the workplace is sometimes ignored on construction sites because these issues do not always lead to an instant dramatic incident or injury on site. We all actively look to prevent the serious incidents in our workplace where someone could be exposed to a life threatening accident. What we fail to see is that, in most cases, the cause and effect from someone slipping or tripping leads to more serious conditions where someone could be exposed to a life threatening accident. By eliminating the contributing unsafe conditions in the workplace that lead to slips, trip and falls, you will stop someone harming themselves or a fellow site worker. You can break the links of the accident chain of a more serous incident by removing slips, trips and falls. 9. REFERENCES / FURTHER READING The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Slips and trips: Guidance for employers on identifying hazards and controlling risks HSG155 HSE Books 1996 ISBN CIRA Minimising Waste in Construction HSENI Annual Report April March 2005 PAGE 12

14 143 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 6SU Telephone: Facsimile: Website:

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