According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls are the primary cause of ER visits (21.3%), with slips accounting for over 1 million of these visits (12% of total falls). They are also the leading cause of lost days from work, workers’ compensation claims, and occupational injury for people ages 55 years and older. Since many businesses have considerable foot traffic, ranging from employees and customers to other third parties such as vendors and contractors, the risk of injury is significant. As such, it is important to identify possible unsafe conditions in order to prevent future accidents.
Safe Workplace Regulations
There are currently many different organizations that provide useful regulations for workplace conditions. For instance, the OHSA provides regulations for the condition of floors, stairs, and other walking and working surfaces. The ANSI/ASSE A1264.2-2001 Standard for the Provision of Slip Resistance on Walking/Working Surfaces provides guidance for various surfaces, footwear, and additional provisions for creating and maintaining safer work surfaces. Following these regulations, among the regulations put into place by other organizations, such as relevant local and national building codes, the National Fire Protection Association, and Americans with Disabilities Act, is pivotal to maintaining safe work conditions.
Creating a Safe Work Environment
When evaluating risk of injury in the workplace, there are three major components to keep in mind: walking surface design, walking surface maintenance, and awareness training. Here are some tips for creating a safe environment:
- Ensure that all transitions (such as carpet to tile, concrete to tile, or asphalt to concrete) are smooth and clearly evident.
- Treat all relevant flooring (terrazzo, polished marble, tile, or wood) with a thin coating of slip resistant wax, and record the actual coefficient of friction (COF) for all floor surfaces in your building (it should be 0.5 or greater).
- Check and document that floor finish product suppliers provide training to maintenance personnel on how to correctly apply the product.
Areas of Special Concern
Certain areas, such as entryways, aisles, and passageways, have more foot traffic and should be of special concern. Another concern is stairways and ramps, due to their potentially hazardous changes in level. In all of these cases, it is important to ensure adequate lighting is installed to illuminate the area clearly. The areas should also be free of congestion and obstructions, including wires, electrical cords, cracks, holes, depressions, and uneven or unclear elevations. For changes in level, handrails should be installed that start at least 18 inches before the first change in elevation and end at least 18 inches after the last change in elevation. These handrails should be clearly visible, securely attached, and easily graspable in a “c” grip. Below are additional guidelines for limiting slips, trips, and falls in these areas:
- In entryways, place absorbent mats on the carpeting during inclement weather, and ensure that they are of sufficient length (at least over 6 feet), lie flush with the floor, and are in good condition.
- If area rugs are used, anti-slip pads or backing should be in place to control wrinkling and slipping.
- Steps should be painted with contrasting colors for visibility and covered with slip resistant surface material such as friction strips or low dense pile carpeting.
Preventing slips, trips, and falls by taking precautions to make your workplace safer can directly benefit your employees, your customers, and can result in dramatically fewer financial losses due to injury.