The Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require floors to be suitable, in good condition, and free from obstructions. No two floors are identical, and some will be potentially more liable to cause slips than others. The slip potential of a floor depends on the exact type of surface it has, how that surface wears down over time, and how difficult or easy it is to keep clean.
The Health & Safety Laboratory has developed a system which shows that a number of different factors will contribute to slip accidents. The first is the type of floor, since different types will have different properties. The cleaning regime is another factor. Poor cleaning can result in residues being left on the floor surface, while the cleaning process itself will leave the floor wet for a given period of time. Even when a thorough cleaning regime is in place, residues can build up over time: for example, on a tile floor, dirt and grease can work its’ way into the grout. This is why floor deep cleaning should be carried out from time to time. How often deep cleaning is required will depend on the nature of the floor surface, the use to which it is put, and the amount of foot traffic it receives.
Contamination is another factor, of course. Many companies do not think about how they would deal with spills until after they have occurred. One of the most common spills is oil, with the Environment Agency receiving over 5,000 reports of oil spills every year. There are two ways to deal with this. One is the proactive approach which is to store all containers of liquid within a secondary containment system, and provide sufficient equipment to deal with spills, keeping spill kits on site for every likely situation.
The reactive approach is to start looking for ways of dealing with the spill after it has already happened. This has obvious disadvantages because it relies on someone noticing the spill and taking some action to stop it spreading – perhaps into a watercourse via drainage. There is employee downtime while looking for some way of cleaning up the spill, and of course, the cost of spilled materials cannot be recovered. In addition, there is always the risk of possible fines.
Of course, it is not only slips that cause people to suffer injuries. They can equally suffer injury as a result of trips. Floor surfaces that are badly worn, loose floorboards, worn carpet, and so on can all cause people to trip up. All floor surfaces should be checked from time to time in order to ensure that they are safe to walk on and immediate action taken if any problem is noticed. Furthermore, no obstructions should be left on any part of a walkway.
Floors that are clean and dry rarely pose a slip risk, but a well-rung mop will still leave some element of residue on the floor which poses a slip risk until it is dry. Putting up warning signs should obviously be done, but that on its’ own will not prevent people from slipping. Ideally, areas that have been cleaned should be taped off or made out of bounds until the floor is dry. Profile floors and rough floors cannot be fully cleaned by mopping and need manual or mechanical brushing. If a mop that is used to clean a floor is not clean itself, all that it will do is to spread grease and dirt around.
Slip resistance potential of many floor surfaces can be improved by mechanical methods such as shot basting or grinding. There are also lots of anti-slip products, such as anti-slip paints, anti-slip tapes, stair nosings, and so on, that can be used to improve the performance of a floor.
The Health & Safety Laboratory has developed a method of assessing the slip resistance of a floor using what is called the Pendulum Test. This produces a reading on a sliding scale: if the figure is 36 or higher the floor is considered safe. Surface micro roughness can also be measure.
If you are concerned about floor safety – and you should be – there are companies that will carry out these tests for you and will be able to provide floor surface treatments if they are needed.