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The Law Regarding Slips And Falls In The Workplace

By Author: Ray Stobbart
Total Articles: 19

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSW Act) requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks.

Employees have a duty not to put themselves or others in danger and must use any safety equipment provided.

Some employers may not even be aware that the law also requires all employers to carry out a risk assessment in relation to the danger of slips and falls on their premises, and furthermore to keep a written record of that assessment. If you have less than five employees you don't have to keep a written record, but nonetheless it is best practice to do so. You are also required to carry out a risk assessment on a regular basis. The HSE says that very few workplaces stay the same.

For instance, you might install a new piece of machinery which would need oil in order to run correctly. This could alter the likelihood of slips and falls in the area where the machine is installed because there could be oil spills, so you would need to take this into consideration.

You probably already take sensible precautions regarding the safety of your employees, but your risk assessment will tell you if there are other things that you should be doing as well. You need to consider what activities in your workplace could result in slips and falls and decide what are effective measures to minimise the risk. You then need to put those control measures into place, concentrating on the real risks that may do harm.

Obviously, you can undertake the risk assessment by yourself, but a very good idea is to ask your employees what they think. This is because in the course of their work they may notice things which are not immediately apparent to you, and in any case the old saying "two heads are better than one" springs to mind. In this case, it might be twenty heads.

The HSE has a free online learning tool, called the Slips and Trips eLearning Package, referred to as 'STEP' (www.hse.gov.uk/slips/step/start.htm). This tool is designed for both employers and workers in all sectors, providing help on assessing and managing slip and trip risks in the workplace. It provides an overview of slips and trips, how they are caused and how to prevent them, from introductory to advanced level.

There is also a hazard spotting checklist which you can obtain from here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck4.pdf and a slips and trips mapping tool which shows how to locate hotspots in your workplace so that you can make them a priority. That is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/slips/mappingtool.pdf.

In many cases, some simple actions will make great improvements, such as putting door mats inside doors to avoid people tracking water in when it is raining and making the floor slippery. You should also ensure that any spills are cleaned up as soon as they are spotted.

What you may not be aware of is that some floor surfaces are inherently more slippery than others. This may be partly due to the material of which the floor is made, and partly due to the use to which it is put. There is actually a test which can be carried out on your floor to determine whether or not it is safe. This is called a Pendulum Test and uses a small portable piece of equipment that replicates the action of a heel striking the floor surface. It produces a reading on a sliding scale and the figure that you need to achieve is 36 or above. If the reading is below 36 your floor is unsafe, and you will need to take some action to bring it up to scratch.

Fortunately, this is not too difficult because you can have an anti-slip floor coating applied to the floor. This will often bring a floor up to a figure considerably higher than 36. There are companies that manufacture a range of different floor coatings, because a specific floor surface will require a specific approach.

Fortunately, these coatings are not overly expensive, but far better to have your floor made safe than be on the wrong end of a claim for hundreds of thousands in compensation.

4Earth Solutions is a specialist manufacturer of anti-slip floor coating and can also carry out a Pendulum Test for you in order to determine the safety of your floor.

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