Slips, trips and falls are the leading cause of major injuries in the workplace. Lionel Bailey examines how firms can protect their workers through training and proper communication.
The prevention of workplace accidents should always be a priority for employers. However, ensuring that an effective health and safety strategy is implemented and understood by the whole workforce is often a challenge. With many firms employing a strong contingency of temporary staff, coupled with the complexities that accompany managing teams across multiple sites, training and communication are vital in reducing the potential of any slips, trips and falls in the workplace.
Firms should aim to put together a complete health and safety training programme by gathering input from facilities managers, health and safety managers and floor staff to identify potential risks. Employee health and safety training should form part of the induction process so that employees are fully briefed from the outset. New staff may be unfamiliar with key procedures such as how to use certain pieces of equipment, and a general unfamiliarity of the workplace means employees are at a greater risk of slips, trips and falls.
For companies with a high staff turnover or those that use a contingency of temporary workers, this can be especially challenging. Often in this case, forming a close relationship with an employment agency is vital. Having a health and safety manager provide recruiters with a training programme and information regarding pertinent slip, trip and fall hazards in the working environment can reduce the risk of accidents. In addition, implementing a written test or questionnaire after the course of training will ensure that agency staff who fully understand health and safety procedures are invited to work on site.
In every workplace, there should be a clear chain of communication through which employees can report any emerging hazards or concerns. Each team should have a safety representative who is responsible for relaying such concerns to the site health and safety manager. However, if employees do not feel that their input has been sufficiently addressed, an open door policy can be useful for any workers who wish to escalate their concerns to higher management.
Similarly, one of the most important tools for risk reduction is ‘near-miss reporting’. Here, employees are encouraged to contact safety representatives in instances where physical obstructions, wet floors or similar hazards had the potential to cause a minor accident. This allows facilities managers to implement changes to ensure that a more serious slip or fall does not take place. Communicating steps that the organisation has taken in reaction to near-miss reports is also important – sharing this information on a health and safety notice board or company newsletter will encourage employees to report other incidents.
Training aside, consistent and continuous monitoring of the working environment is necessary in order to maintain best practice and remove hazards before they cause accidents. A large proportion of slips, trips and falls are caused by extension leads, electrical cabling, pieces of pallet or discarded packaging. Implementing a clean as you go mentality among staff and ensuring it is properly enforced via regular spot checks can help to reduce potential risks.
For health and safety managers overseeing a number of sites, there must be a degree of delegation to individual facilities managers to carry out these checks. However, impromptu audits can help in ascertaining quality control. Also, inviting health and safety representatives to visit various sites can encourage the sharing of expertise and best practice, which could aid in driving improvements.
In order to reduce the incidence of slips, trips and falls, health and safety managers must ensure that staff receive the correct training, are able to communicate any concerns and adequately report near-miss incidents to a safety representative. Spotting the emergence of hazards before they occur and implementing a culture of continuous assessment can significantly reduce the risk of staff injuries.
Lionel Bailey is a health and safety specialist at Office Depot