With winter comes wet weather. Not only do workers need to be more careful while driving, but also when walking through parking lots and buildings. Building floors can become wet as outside foot traffic moves inside. There are many ways, however, to stop a wet floor from bringing you down.
Floor Safety Requirements
Most slips, trips and falls (STFs) are minor and seldom result in any serious injury. When you think of workplace accidents, dramatic falls from higher elevations come to mind. STFs to the same level are much more common and they can occur anywhere in a facility and to anyone.
Employers are required to assess their workplace to determine whether the walking and working surfaces are strong and structurally sound enough to safely support employees’ job functions. This includes keeping the floor clean and dry, which is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) [29 CFR 1910.22(a)(1)/(a)(2)].
According to OSHA, more than 540,000 STF injuries requiring hospital care occur in the United States every year. STFs to the same level account for 15 to 20 percent of all workers’ compensation costs. These accidents, including both those at the same level or to another level, cause 10 percent of all accidental deaths, ranking them fourth among leading causes of accidental industrial deaths.
The following is a partial list of potential high-risk areas where STFs may occur due to a wet floor:
- Entrances/exits, lobbies (especially on bad weather days), ramps and stairways
- Industrial areas where machines may leak liquids into walkways
- Kitchens, food preparation areas and walk-in freezers/refrigerators
- Restrooms and shower rooms
- Areas with leaking pipes or dripping condensation
- Supermarkets, especially produce areas
- Healthcare and elder-care facilities
- Health clubs and pool decks
- Floors made frequently wet by the nature of the work
- Anywhere the floor surface changes in level or texture
- Where floors are being mopped or maintained
- Water fountain and drinking areas
How to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls
STFs result from an unintended or unexpected change in the contact between the feet and the ground or walking surface. Good housekeeping, quality of walking surfaces (flooring), selection of proper footwear based on work area and appropriate walking pace are all important factors in preventing accidents.
Good housekeeping is the first and the most fundamental element of preventing STF accidents. Best practices include:
Without good housekeeping practices, other preventive measures may never be fully effective.
How to Avoid Falling at Work
It is important to remember that safety is everybody’s business. Even though it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment, employees can improve their own safety, too.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk of slipping on wet flooring:
- Take your time and pay attention to where you are going
- Adjust your stride to a pace that is suitable for the walking surface and the task you are doing
- Make wide turns at corners
- Walk without distraction (e.g. cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.)