According to research from the National Floor Safety Institute, slip and fall accidents result in the most number of worker’s compensation claims and trigger the most number of occupational injuries for workers who are 55 and older. Employees slipping and falling on slick floors account for nearly 85 percent of worker’s compensation claims, according to the fifth edition of the Industrial Safety & Occupational Health Markets.
Same-level slip and fall accidents exist anywhere at a workplace, which means that every step taken during a workday could be a risk unless these hazards are identified. Slips and falls can happen at any time and can occur anywhere – not just in wet areas or production floors. These same-level slips and falls put everyone in the workplace at risk, which will eventually result in worker’s compensation claims. A study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that over 29 percent of same-level fall injuries accounted for losing more than 31 days of work. Major injury sources were grounds, walkways, and floors.
Should Workplace Audits Be Undertaken Of Work Floors And Walkways?
Some sectors and industries have to deal with specific hazards, but same-level slip and fall dangers are common to most work facilities. Since they can happen anywhere, audits should ideally be undertaken of work floors and walkways to identify visible and hidden hazards for employees.
The audit may examine any previous injuries to identify high-risk areas at the workplace. But this is not necessarily the most reliable factor to focus on singularly because many workers don’t report injuries out of sheer discomfiture. Formal audits are ideal for identifying high-risk work floors and walkways that can result in a slip and fall injury. Walkway auditors measure walkway Coefficient of Friction (COF) to identify these high-risk walking surfaces in the facility. This provides a clear analysis that enables employers to determine areas that need careful attention to prevent slip and fall hazards at the workplace.
Occupational Health And Safety New Standards
The U.S. Government’s Department of Occupational Health and Safety has set new standards for workplaces that promise to be game-changers when it comes to protecting employees from slip and fall hazards.
- ANSI/NFSI B101.3:
This denotes the process to be followed when it comes to calculating the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF). This measures the pushing or pulling force needed to slide a weight of mass on the surface. According to the standards, a higher DCOF is ideal because when it increases, then the level of slip resistance also rises. This standard denotes limit values for action, so employers know areas where specific attention must be paid to reduce the dangers of slip and fall accidents.
- ANSI/NFSI B101.1:
This standard denotes the process to be followed when it comes to calculating the static coefficient of friction (SCOF). The difference between DCOF and SCOF is that SCOF measures the amount of force necessary to trigger the slide. More force is usually required to trigger the slide than it is to maintain it.
- ANSI/NFSI B101.0:
This denotes the process to be followed when auditing walking surfaces for slip resistance using the tribometer. This tribometer is a specific device to measure the coefficient of friction (COF) of any hard surface used for walking.
Identifying External Slip And Fall Hazards
Same-level slip and fall accidents can occur indoors and outdoors, so auditors must include both areas before arriving at the final report. Here are some areas that must be included in the audit:
Hard surfaces and paved areas like parking blocks and pedestrian walkways should be audited for deep cracks,
bumps, and potholes that will contribute to same-level slip and fall accidents.
Landscaped areas like trees, shrubs, and bushes that impinge on walkways can create slip and fall hazards because they force people to walk in alternative areas to the denoted sidewalk. Some close-to-ground bushes and shrubs can also pose a huge hazard to loaders who cannot see the ground while lifting heavy items and walking. Trees shedding leaves, fruits, and berries should also be checked out to ensure that they don’t cause slip and fall hazards for workers and passersby.
Sidewalk Variations In Height
Subtle variations in the height of sidewalks can be difficult to spot, but they are important because even a small height difference can trigger a slip and fall accident.
Snow And Ice On Pathways And Walkways
Snow and ice are issues that can affect external walkway safety during winter time, so audits must be undertaken to identify high-risk areas. Removing this snow and ice in a timely manner is vital to ensure workplace safety at all times. Auditors must undertake audits on snowy and rainy days in order to accurately assess the extent of the risk. Most walkways are not a problem when the climate is dry, but can become slipping hazards when it rains or snows.
Identifying Internal Slip And Fall Hazards
Just like external hazards, internal hazards should also be properly focused on during the audit process. Here are some areas to look at:
Flooring areas in break rooms and cafeterias are smooth, which puts workers at risk when food and drinks spill on them. When wet, these floors can present potential slip and fall risks. Auditors will need to establish whether the area has enough trashcans to discard food and drink waste. Cafeterias should have sufficient trash cans to prevent the problem of overfilling. Floors should be as dry as possible between breaks and shifts to reduce the hazards of employees and workers walking on wet floors.
Entrances And Transition Spaces
Entrances and transition spaces are typically areas where the surface may display some changes. For instance, a worker may come in from a paved sidewalk to a carpeted or tiled entrance. A carpeted floor may suddenly turn into a tiled or wooden floor from one area to the next. These spaces are well known for slip and fall hazards because of the difference in flooring materials, which could put someone who isn’t paying attention at risk. Lighting in these areas is vital because it helps people clearly notice the difference in walking surfaces.
Floors typically get more slippery when they get older, which can result in slip and fall hazards at the workplace.
Incorrect cleaning can result in residue on floors, which will make them more slippery. Auditors must pay attention to floor cleaning to ensure that the workplace facility is following proper procedures and using accurate cleaning chemicals to reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents.
Production spaces are particularly vulnerable to slip and fall hazards because machines can leak and cause spills on floors where workers are constantly walking. Employers should consider using anti-fatigue and permeable flooring materials while ensuring employees wear durable footwear in their production spaces. Auditors should also check whether housekeeping and cleaning routines are adequate for preventing slip and fall accidents. Proper lighting should be placed in these areas because it helps workers notice any risks more easily.
Preventing Injuries At The Workplace
Employers should ideally ensure that any floor safety hazards are handled to prevent slip and fall injuries at the workplace. Often, same-level slip and fall accidents aren’t given the same attention as other potential risks, but the repercussions could be just as devastating since it could potentially impact the worker’s ability to perform his/her task adequately.
Identifying these safety hazards on time and proactively tackling them will help to prevent injuries and may also bring down worker’s compensation premiums for companies. Managing walkways should be a key precedence for risk managers to protect workers from injuries and to prevent possible lawsuits against the company.