Image of slippery floor caution sign

Ten tips to cut slips and trips

A slip or trip in a hazardous workplace doesn’t bear thinking about.

Poor housekeeping is a major cause of incidents in all types of workplaces and if a worker is lucky, they might escape unscathed with nothing more than injured pride.

But as can often be the case, a worker can sustain serious or even horrific injuries.

In, for example, a hospitality environment such as a busy kitchen prone to splashes and spills, the typical injuries are cuts or burns and head injuries.

One particularly nasty incident involved a chef slipping on a pool of water and in an attempt to prevent his fall, he plunged one arm into a pan of boiling oil. He suffered extreme burns requiring surgery and was off work for almost six months.

The implications were not only plummeting productivity and morale but finding a similarly qualified and skilled stand-in chef to keep trading and prevent a slide of the restaurant’s reputation.

So clearly it is in your best interests to do everything you can to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls – but where do you start?

  1. A good kick-off point is to seek input from your workers about potential hazards as they are often more aware of issues due to the nature of their work.
  2. Spend a day walking around your workplace with your health and safety representative monitoring worker activity and tasks, identifying potential slip and trip hazards, and making a checklist.
  3. Recognise housekeeping issues, such as stacked boxes or supplies, cables, general mess or fluid spills or leaks, take appropriate action then monitor areas to avoid any repeat activity.
  4. Provide bins for workers or customers to dispose of rubbish, ensure containers have secure lids, and install drip trays beneath machines or water coolers.
  5. If your workplace is prone to spills, splashes, leaks or moisture build-up, consider installing slip-resistant flooring designed to function even when coming into contact with liquids.
  6. Acid-etching of hard surface floors, including tiles, may help improve slip-resistance properties in wet conditions but can wear off quickly depending on foot traffic volume.
  7. Profiled metal floor surfaces can be effective depending on what type of footwear your workers wear but can be more slippery than expected – mild steel is better as it gets more abrasive and slip resistant with age.
  8. If a path, walkway or stairway has uneven sections or holes, possible fixes include relaying the surface, filling in holes or installing handrails – but if these are impractical, then highlight hazards with eye-catching colours, erect warning signs or improve lighting to make the risk more obvious.
  9. Workers or customers entering your business might carry water or mud inside on their footwear, making the surface slippery – a possible solution is laying slip-resistant rubber or absorbent matting.
  10. Introduce an effective hazard monitoring and cleaning system to react quickly and efficiently to any spills, leaks, splashes or accumulation of material that might pose a risk.

Visit workcover.nsw.gov.au for more advice or call us on 13 10 50.

Image of young worker and supervisor on construction site

Young construction workers at risk

Ensuring all new workers are familiar with health and safety arrangements on your construction site is critical, but young workers in particular require special treatment.

Workers aged 15 to 25 have a 75 per cent greater chance of being hurt, and in NSW 15 people in this age group are injured every day, with building sites one of the highest-risk workplaces. Typical injuries include cuts, lacerations, bruises, contusions, punctures and fractures.

Young construction workers are also more likely to experience manual handling injuries, such as sprains, strains and tears, from incorrect lifting or moving heavy or awkward objects. Falls from height are another major risk and building sites usually have numerous pitfalls such as ladders, floor openings, roofs, scaffolds and stairs.

One reason why young workers are more vulnerable is they are less likely to recognise and be able to cope with potential hazards. This requires knowledge, skills and experience only gained by time on the job. On a building site, this inexperience and lack of awareness can increase the chances of being injured or causing an injury.

So while it might be costly and time-consuming to provide extra training to bring younger workers fully up to speed on potential hazards and safe working practices, it is a smart investment as well as a legal requirement.

A training checklist for young workers could look like this:

  1. Give clear instructions about a job or task and safety precautions to take.
  2. Ask them to repeat your instructions back to you to make sure they understand.
  3. Encourage them to ask you questions about the task or anything else.
  4. Show how to perform a task and get them to demonstrate and repeat it until they have it correct.
  5. Provide written instructions on their job and tasks, and stress the importance of learning these and referring to them as often as required.
  6. Explain and demonstrate equipment and machinery safety features and make sure they understand how these work. Also show them the personal protective equipment required to do tasks safely, where to find it, and how to use it properly.
  7. Ask if they have any questions and make sure you or a supervisor monitors the worker’s progress and performance, especially in their first few weeks, and repeat training where necessary.

Before entering a construction site, all young workers must complete external General Construction Induction Training (GCIT) and hold a current WorkCover-issued GCIT card.

More guidance is available at the WorkCover website or call 13 10 50.