Indoors, slipping is often caused by wet floors and outdoors, the cause is slipperiness.
Slipping occurs if the adhesion between a person’s sole and the floor suddenly decreases and the upper body cannot keep up with the feet during movement. The result is a fall backwards. Slipping is usually caused by a wet passageway.
Slipping is caused not only by liquids in the passageway, but also by solid particles, which are usually generated in production, such as dust, sawdust, fibres, granules or powder. Sawdust and wood dust are common by-products of wood processing. If the exhaust ventilation does not work efficiently enough, dust or sawdust will be deposited on the surfaces in the workplace, including the passageway, causing a risk of slipping in addition to problems with the respiratory tract.
When assessing the risk caused by slipping, it shall be taken into account that employees who carry, push or pull loads are more at risk. Always be vigilant to prevent injuries caused by slipping. It is important to monitor the condition of the work equipment so that no liquids (oil, coolant, water) leak from it. In the event of a leak, prevent spillage and eliminate the leak as soon as possible. An employee using the leaking work equipment should report the fault to the supervisor, who is tasked with arranging for the leak to be eliminated.
A trip occurs when a foot gets stuck behind something while in motion, but inertia carries the upper body forward. As a result, the body’s centre of gravity shifts forward from the feet and the person falls. Most of the time, people trip because there are obstacles to their movement in their path.
The main reason for tripping is poor maintenance of the workplace. Places of work are not usually designed to facilitate tripping. Objects that cause tripping are left there in the course of work. Unexpected obstacles in the pathway are the most dangerous. Unfortunately, the installed flooring does not last forever. Unevenness of the flooring can cause tripping. We normally assume that a pathway is flat and do not pay special attention to it while moving. Where possible, creating different levels and steps in the pathway should be avoided. If this is not possible, such places shall be marked.
Carpets and floor coverings that are not properly fastened also cause problems on the pathways. As a result, their edges may curl, which in turn causes tripping. Addressing such problems is generally easy and their occurrence in the places of work particularly indicates an indifferent attitude towards ensuring safe pathways for employees.
Wires and hoses in pathways also cause tripping. It is recommended that the power cords and hoses of stationary equipment that are in the pathway are installed into the floor or at a height where they do not interfere with movement. Temporary cables (vacuum cleaner, laptop, mobile phone charger, etc.) should not be placed in the pathway. If this is not possible even when using the nearest socket, the employees whose pathways they may be in shall be notified. Sometimes industrial waste or objects that are not necessary are placed in the pathways.
If an employee cannot eliminate the hazard, the supervisor must be informed as soon as possible.
It is important to involve all employees in keeping the working environment in good condition.
No employee should be indifferent if his or her actions create a risk of slipping or tripping or if he or she notices such situation irrespective of his or her own actions. The hazard shall be eliminated immediately (for example, the floor shall be dried or a container removed from the pathway). The supervisor shall also be informed. If an employee cannot eliminate the hazard, the supervisor must be informed as soon as possible.
Each employee should know what a tidy workplace looks like and how to maintain it. If pathways are not free or obstacles or not maintained, employees seek other pathways which may be untidy, uneven or slippery.
Where possible, work should be organised in a way that avoids sudden turns and walking long distances. It should also be borne in mind that noise, low and high temperatures, and distractions reduce an employee’s focus on where he or she is moving.
In addition to the risk of slipping and tripping, glass walls and transparent doors in the pathway should be noted. Glass walls and doors are quite common in newer buildings and, unfortunately, there have been occupational accidents caused by striking them.
Transparent walls shall be made of safe materials or protected against breakage and shall be clearly marked. Transparent doors shall also be clearly marked. The design of the marking is not as important as the fact that the marking should be clearly visible irrespective of the lighting, weather conditions and the height of the employee.
Choice of flooring
The risk of slipping depends on the properties of the flooring. In turn, the choice of material should depend on the peculiarities of the workplace. For example, laminate flooring may not be suitable for the kitchen, as it poses a risk of slipping and is difficult to maintain; however, in an office, it would be reasonable and quite safe. In working environments where contamination that causes slipperiness cannot be avoided, the risk of slipping shall be reduced by selection of proper surface materials. Walking on a pathway should be safe even if it is wet, oily or covered with snow. The slip-resistance, wear-resistance and cleaning properties should be taken into account in the selection of flooring.
The following standards describe the slip resistance of floors of public spaces:
- DIN 51097 determines the slip-resistance of floors in barefoot areas (slip resistance classes A, B and C);
- DIN 51130 determines the slip-resistance of floors in footwear areas using the R-marking (R9-R13).
Based on these standards, flooring for different working environments can be selected according to the place and conditions of use.
The depth of relief of flooring alone does not ensure slip resistance. Extremely slippery, albeit slightly wavy tiles are also available on the market.
In addition to the slip-resistance class, it is important to pay attention to other properties of the material. In the case of stone, the material strength class determines how long the floor retains its original properties. Softer stones wear faster, harder stones slower. For example, rough limestone wears quickly when used on the stairs and becomes slippery, but granite does not become worn. At the same time, limestone can be used in low-traffic areas with less wear.
PVC and other materials also have different wear resistance that should be inquired from the seller.
From the point of view of cleanability, preference could be given to materials that can only be cleaned by making them damp, as a very wet surface becomes more slippery.
Cleaning the floors
Washing the floors can cause falls in indoor work. If this is done while other employees are at work, washing the floors is not only dangerous to the person washing them but to also other employees. The person washing the floors is aware of the hazard presented by his or her activity and can be careful; however, a person who unknowingly steps on a wet floor may fall.
The slipperiness of a washed floor largely depends on the surface roughness and therefore special care shall be taken when washing smooth floors. A washed floor should not be left damp. With modern cleaning products, cleaning does not require wetting the floors, which is why it is important to use proper work equipment and provide instruction to the person washing the floors.
If a floor is slippery during or after washing it, it is recommended to display a warning sign to those walking there until the floor dries. A similar hazard occurs in a place of work if the floor gets wet when washing work equipment. In workplaces where the floor is wet due to the activities performed there (sauna, swimming pool, car wash, etc.), the roughness of the flooring and the choice of footwear are important. With rough flooring, the floor does not become slippery as quickly.
Techniques for safe floor cleaning
- Always use a correct cleaning agent in the prescribed concentration.
- Microfibre cloths should be washed with a suitable detergent that does not contain zeolite, optical brightener or fabric softeners. These additives clog and bond the fibres, so improperly maintained textiles can only collect a small portion of the dirt compared to what they would actually be able to do.
- Most floors can be cleaned with little water so that the floor dries in 0.5 to 1 minute.
- If a surface cannot be cleaned with water alone, it shall be wet cleaned at the time when it is least likely that someone needs to use the floor. Access to the area should be limited until there is no more risk of slipping.
- A slipping hazard symbol helps draw attention to the hazard.
When using stairs
Often, the risk of losing balance on stairs is greater than when walking on a flat surface.
The heights of the steps should not differ from one other. The recommended height of steps is up to 17 cm. Steps should be of uniform width, preferably at least 27 cm wide.
Attention should also be paid to stairs, which, based on their construction, may have edges that are higher than the steps, where the heel of a shoe can get stuck behind.
With old stairs, steps that are inclined due to wear can cause falls. A common cause of accidents is the rounded front edges of old limestone and metal stairs that can cause slipping.
Most commonly, tape is used to make stairs slip-resistant. It is important to distinguish between abrasive tapes used outdoors and non-abrasive tapes used indoors. There is no abrasive layer on the surface of the latter. A special surface pattern provides slip resistance. They also do not break indoor shoes or the skin of the sole and are easy to clean.
A natural part of the stairs is a handrail. This is necessary so that you could hold onto something if you lose your balance when moving up the stairs. Sometimes a handrail also serves as a barrier so that there is no danger of falling off the stairs. If children may come into the workplace because of its nature, their height and needs should be taken into account when installing handrails.
Accidents on stairs often occur because a person trips over clothes he or she is wearing. People often step on their skirt or coat, lose balance and fall. The consequences can be tragic.
In addition to places that can cause slipping or tripping, special attention shall be paid to areas of the pathway where one could fall from a height. These places are mainly on platforms and overpasses, but also near pits. Where possible, such areas should be fenced. If this is not possible, they shall be marked visibly and clearly.
Using a ladder
Slipping on a ladder often leads to falling from a height and severe damage to health. Slipping off the steps of the ladder could be avoided by using special slip-resistant and removable step covers.
Lighting in the pathways plays an important role in avoiding slipping and tripping. The lighting should be sufficient to allow make dangerous places in the pathways visible. At the same time, it shall be ensured that the differences between levels are clearly visible in the pathways. Avoid using floor tiles that reflect light so intensely that it disturbs movement in a pathway. A switch is located away from a door can also cause tripping, as one needs to reach it in the dark. It is worth considering in which rooms automatic lighting would be useful or where to use reflective tapes on the surfaces that should not be collided with.
See also the page on lighting deficiencies.
The risk of slipping can be reduced by wearing proper footwear. However, safety shoes cannot be the only means to rely on to prevent slipping. In particular, the pathways must be maintained to prevent the risk of slipping.
However, if slipperiness in the working environment cannot be prevented, shoes with a non-slip soles shall be selected. Employees who work outdoors are recommended to use anti-slip attachments on their shoes, especially if they need to alternate between slippery and non-slippery surfaces.
Non-slip shoes are usually tested according to the international standard ISO 13287 – personal protective equipment. Footwear Method for testing the slip-resistant properties
Where there is a risk of slipping, “proper” means shoes with a smooth, rather low heel and a sole that has sufficient pattern and is preferably made of a softer material that would adhere well to the surface.
How to select the right shoe?
- A shoe should always be tested in the specific conditions.
- Try different shoes before you purchase a larger quantity. For example, shoes that work well on a wet surface may not be suitable in a room used for handling of food due to the shape of the sole pattern.
- Under no circumstances should the sole pattern become clogged with dirt on the floor. If this happens, these shoes are not suitable for your conditions.
- The sole pattern is especially important for floors contaminated with liquids. Among other features, a good sole shall direct fluid out of the sole in all directions, ensuring good contact with the surface.
- The rigidity of the sole material is very important. Depending on the contaminant, there may be special requirements for the material, such as resistance to oil, alkalis, acids, solvents or other substances. These categories are also subdivided and, for example, footwear that is resistant to one acid may not be resistant to another. More detailed tests have been performed by professional manufacturers. Some workplaces may require a rigid sole, and additional reinforcements in the form of steel slats may be particularly cost-effective in the long run.
- Attention must also be paid to the comfort of the shoe. An uncomfortable shoe unnecessarily burdens the employee who as soon as possible replaces it with a more comfortable one, but not necessarily a safer one.