The most frequent cause of death in the workplace is when people fall from a height – but keeping everyone at ground level is simply putting your head in the sand!
You can’t operate by wrapping people in cotton wool – houses would never be built, windows would never be cleaned reducing light in the working environment (creating a different kind of hazard), ground level storage would decimate the countryside; the outcomes would be intolerable.
Slips, trips and falls are usually avoidable, but not by removing every possible hazard. When I was in the Fire Brigade we worked with water – there was always water on the floor, even in the Fire Station, as tenders were designed to leak water to some degree.
The Brigade decided to fight a case and let the Judge examine the situation. The verdict was that fire fighters know the situation they’re working in and can see where they are going – the Fire Brigade won the case, and the number of claims dropped dramatically!
Many of the problems that employers face are to do with culture and attitude – if the organisation has a culture of blame and the prevailing attitude is based on doing only as much as is essential; so it comes as no surprise that there is also an expectation that, if an injury occurs, the employer should ‘pay’.
Just having a clean and tidy workplace means that half the job is already done. If things are put away there are fewer obstacles to cause slips, trips and falls. If the workplace is kept clean, there is less likelihood of grease building up, or liquid being around that can be a hazard. This creates an attitude of respect for the working environment. Part of the solution is to train employees to understand not only how to look after themselves, but to understand how to take care of their colleagues.
Preventing accidents as a result of slips, trips and falls is a partnership between the employer, who should be looking at significant risks and taking action to reduce them, and the employees who should be able to handle minor risks – by applying common sense.