It is a fact that the major causes of accidents at work are slips, trips, and falls. They can cause everything from minor bruising to broken legs and arms, and on occasion can be fatal. Statistics show that the majority of accidents occur when the floor surface is contaminated in some way with water, oil and grease, other liquids, and even talcum powder: all these can add severely to the danger of slips and falls.
The floor surface can also cause slips and trips. Slips can occur on some floor surfaces which are simply inherently slippery as a result of their composition. Other floor surfaces may be worn, or have had cuts or grooves put into them, perhaps by moving heavy machinery about. That kind of surface that is uneven can result in trips and the only answer is to replace the floor surface, or perhaps grind it down so that there is nothing over which to trip.
Equally, trips can occur simply as a result of objects being left lying where they should not be, and where they might not be expected to be. Unfortunately, some people just don’t look where they are going and may trip over an object that is perfectly visible to other people. For example, someone may have dropped a lipstick, which is not very big but can very easily cause a serious fall if trodden on. This means that unexpected objects should never be left on the floor at any time: they should be picked up and put safely away or into storage where they can do no harm.
Other causes of slips and trips on floors can be poor cleaning, leaving a residue behind on the floor. Cleaning can also leave a wet residue which can cause slips, so areas that have been cleaned should be cordoned off until they are dry again. Another cause can be the weather: wet weather can cause people to track in rainwater or mud, and in autumn leaves blowing about may enter as the door is opened.
Still another factor can be the type of footwear worn. Brand new shoes with leather soles, for instance, can be very slippery until the sole has been ground down a bit.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires floors to be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions. No two floors are ever exactly the same since, even if they are made of the same material, they will have different levels of traffic, and different uses will also have different effects on a floor’s surface.
Slip resistance of some floor surfaces can be modified by applying anti-slip coatings and anti-slip tapes. There are a number of different anti-slip coatings that can be applied to a floor, dependent on the type of floor surface. It may also be possible to modify a floor surface by grinding it down or using shot-blasting.
Of course, there are some actions that are simple to take which can help to ensure a floor surface remains safe. The simple placing of a mat in front of a door can prevent people tramping in rainwater from outside.
Of course, one problem is that many business owners do everything that they can to keep their floor safe but may simply be unaware of the inherent safety of the material of which the floor is constructed. Fortunately, there is a very simple slip resistance test which can be carried out to determine the level of safety of a floor. This is called a Pendulum Test and involves the use of a small piece of equipment which will produce a figure on a sliding scale. What the test does is to mimic the action of a heel striking the floor surface. If the reading is 36 or above, then the floor is regarded as safe. If it is below 36 then it is not safe, and action needs to be taken.
There are a number of different anti-slip products which can be applied to a floor surface to bring it up to a safe standard, and indeed considerably above the 36 level. The exact type of product to be used can be determined by the manufacturers.
Of course, even with an anti-slip product applied, it has to be remembered that traffic over time will cause wear, so it may be necessary to repeat the coating every so often, depending on the use to which the floor is put.