According to statistics provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), slips, trips and falls are the most common injuries sustained at work, and account for over one-third of all major workplace injuries. It’s not just the monetary damages that you and your company could sustain, but you could be putting your employees’ lives in danger if you haven’t taken the appropriate steps - so here’s how to do a slips, trips and falls risk assessment.
These injuries cost employers over £512 million a year in lost production and other costs, and they also account for over half of all the reported injuries in the workplace. Every employee, visitor or general member of the public that visits your premises are at equal risk, and they’d be your responsibility as they wouldn’t all be aware whether a risk assessment has been done. The HSE recommends that you take a five-step approach on how to do a slips, trips and falls risk assessment. These are:
- Identify The Hazards
- Identify Who Might Be Harmed
- Evaluate The Risks
- Record Your Findings
- Review Regularly
There’s no excuses for not completing one, and avoiding this risk-assessment could put lives in serious danger. Here’s how to do a slips, trips and falls risk assessment in a little bit more detail.
Identify The Hazards
It’s important to know exactly what it is you’re looking for. It doesn’t matter if you’re in charge of a restaurant, construction site or a supermarket - the first step is to look for the hazards that could put people in harm's way. The main causes for slips, trips and falls include uneven floor surfaces, unsuitable floor coverings, wet floors, changes in levels, trailing cables, poor lighting as well as poor housekeeping, so these are things you should be on the lookout for.
In a restaurant, for example, the manager may need to focus on keeping the worktops clear at all times and point out how that could be a danger, along with the possibility of potential spills on the floor and ensuring the relative signs are available for any area of the restaurant, not just the kitchen.
The first step is crucial, and only once this has been completed can you focus on the next steps. So, look for slip and trip hazards, including floor covering and the conditions, along with any possible wiring problems and outdoor areas too.
Identify Who Might Be Harmed
In the second step of the risk assessment, it’s important for you to decide who might be harmed, depending on the type of risk. For example, if we stay in a restaurant and the manager spots a risk near the tables, that’s not really a risk for the chefs as the majority of their time is spent in the kitchen.
On the flip side, you probably wouldn’t include waiters and waitresses if you spot a potential slipping risk near some equipment, as they wouldn’t have any need to be there in the first place.
Although plenty of focus goes into making sure the kitchen is a hazard-free zone, you should go out of your way to solidify the fact that the restaurant floor isn’t a hazard to anyone, especially for servers who could be carrying hot plates - but there are measures you can take to make sure they are safe, such as adding slip-resistant mats and flooring.
Evaluate The Risks
The third step in how to do a slips, trips and falls risk assessment is to evaluate the risks you have found and note them down. You have to ask yourself, are there already measures in place to deal with the risks? Or is fixing that problem going to be your first priority? Every area must be inspected.
The HSE claims you need to do everything reasonably practicable to protect people from harm. This means you need to balance this risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time and trouble. Remember, your slips, trips and falls risk assessment should only include what you could reasonably be expected to know; you’re not expected to anticipate unforeseeable risks.
Once the risks have been evaluated, you should take some practical steps into fixing those hazards, such as consulting with workers and preventing access to hazards. Sometimes, though, the latter can’t be a feasible option, so the best way to prevent slips, trips and falls is to issue protective equipment, such as footwear.
Again, in a kitchen there are plenty of hazards that could cause you to slip or fall, such as spillage. That’s an unavoidable risk at times, but slip-resistant footwear is a good way to combat this, so even if somebody does forget to clean a spill, nobody will at the risk of slipping and injuring themselves.
Record Your Findings
You should then move on to the fourth step, and make a record of any significant findings, including the hazards, how people could be harmed by them and what you have done to control those risks. While it’s not important to write this down if you have employed fewer than five people, it’s still a useful task to undertake so you can review it at a later date.
Although, if you have employed more than five people then it’s the law; you need to write down your findings and it should help you communicate and manage the risks of slips, trips and falls in the workplace. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a major task, you can note down the main points and the significant risks you found and the action you took to combat it.
The important part of a slips, trips and falls risk assessment is that it should show a proper check was made, you asked who might be affected and took into account how many people could be involved, as well as you dealing with the significant hazards. Putting them in order of importance could be a safe way of completing the risk assessment.
Finally, few workplaces stay the same. You may purchase new equipment or change the flooring completely, so you’d have to continue to review your risk assessment to make sure it’s up to date. You should look at your risk assessment again and ask yourself whether any significant changes have been made, or whether you could make any improvements.
If there have been changes, then repeating the whole process might seem lengthy at first, but it’s the safest route to go down as you’d avoid any potential injuries down the line because you failed to make the changes. If you’ve made changes without telling your employees, then they might be unaware of the dangers that lie ahead, making them more prone to slips, trips and falls. All employees should know and understand your risk assessment; they should be trained on how to avoid risks at work.
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