Don’t Let Things Slip This Winter

Winter is almost fully upon the United Kingdom, bringing with it the same level of potential risks in facilities around the country. As Facility Managers (FMs) know well, the added burden of risk analysis to do with perambulatory regions can be one long nightmare if not correctly prepared for. 

The Health and Safety Executive Act, 1974 (HSE) reported that slips, trips and falls are the most common cause of major incidents in the UK workplaces; accounting for 20% of all reported injuries. 

The HSE places the responsibility on employers and occupiers of land and premises to ensure that risks are minimised – as much as is reasonably possible. Further to that though, is The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations, 1992 (WHSWR) which states that the floors and surfaces of any workplace should be clear of any factors which may cause a slip or fall – as far as is reasonably possible. 

Start with an assessment

Your first port of call is an assessment. This assessment should identify potential risk areas for slips and falls; taking into account snowfall and wet weather, and the impact of each. From this assessment, an FM should then look to draw up a plan to deal with any and all foreseeable risk areas. 

Major risk factors

So, what exactly should you be looking out for? Key risk factors include:

  • Poor lighting
  • Damaged/incorrect flooring
  • Obstructions
  • Inappropriate footwear
  • Wet/decaying leaves
  • Rain water
  • Ice, frost and snow

What to do next?

Now that you’ve had a look at the multiple risk factors, you’ve assessed your facility and drawn up a plan for contingencies. What else can you do? 

Start with a floor and walkway audit

Evaluate areas including pavements, car parks and other outdoor areas. If you want to really do it properly, use a tribometer to measure the friction levels on hard surfaces and identify surfaces with low traction. Document the conditions of each floor, for a later reference point and for the chance to measure wear and tear. 

Organise workspaces and remove clutter

Here is where you need to be aware of uneven surfaces, loose carpeting, cables crossing the floor, boxes, cabinets, desks and so on; anything which gets in the way of a naturally-flowing path. Take the time to remove obstacles, clean up the clutter and continuously monitor hazardous areas in case further work is needed. This is likely to be an ongoing effort. 

Repair damaged floors and improve all walkways

During your audit of walkways, you should have identified all of the potential problem areas. Uneven surfaces, low traction sections and flooring in disrepair should be attended to as efficiently as possible. The major issue here is that often these regions have been in disrepair for so long that they become ‘part of the furniture’, as it were. 

The simple truth is that repairing floors is often a lot easier than imagined; and it leads to massive savings down the line in terms of potential accidents or full flooring overhauls. If you are unable to repair any sections, the wisest course of action is to identify these with hazard signs and warnings. 

Keep it clean!

This is probably the most important part of ensuring that risk factors are minimised as much as possible. In order to make all of the above A) worthwhile and B) sustainable; you need to have the right cleaning and maintenance processes in place to keep floors and walking surfaces in good condition. You need to:

  • Have a proper cleaning frequency 
  • Use the correct cleaners for the types of floor
  • Measure out the correct amounts of cleaner (not too little, not too much)
  • Use clean water and clean tools

Other ways to avoid slips, trips and falls

Have a proper floor mat with slip-resistant rubber backing and beveled edges to reduce tripping. 

Go gritting! Rock salt lowers the freezing point of moisture, preventing further ice from forming while the current ice or snow melts. Ash and sand are also usable. Gritting should be done when frost, ice or snow are forecast or when walkways are damp or wet before expected freezing temperatures. Do it in the early evening and/or the early morning before staff arrive. 

Ensure there is proper lighting inside and outside of the workplace. Often, hazards are hidden by shadows or dark places. Keep it bright!

Have handrails at all appropriate places, especially on staircases. 

Issue a footwear memo. It is not very sensible to wear certain shoes in slippery, wet conditions. Staff may need to be reminded that safety comes before aesthetics. 

Proper planning and prevention

Experienced FMs will understand the need to continually monitor the Health and Safety aspects during winter; but given that slips, trips and falls account for such a large proportion of injuries this is certainly an area which requires special attention and care. 

Voltix Services is fully accredited and able to assist you with a complete facilities maintenance solution, including winter services, estate management and statutory compliance.  

Get in touch with Voltix Services today and set up a consultation with the experts.

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