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Floors and the risk of falls

WEA Guideline A.1.6. on Floors and the risk of falls

Februar 2002

Guidelines about trip and slip accidents and how to prevent them

These WEA guidelines are about why people fall on floors, including “trip and slip” incidents, as well as how to reduce the risk of falls.

A “trip and slip” fall means falling to the same level, as opposed to falling off or from something higher up. These WEA Guidelines do not, therefore, cover falls and the risk of falling between different levels, such as falling from stairs or steps. Risk factors for falling over, and “trip and slip” incidents are also risk factors for falling from steps and on stairs.

Trip and slip accidents are very frequent. Accidents of this type comprise one sixth of the accidents that are reported each year. Trip and slip incidents are the most frequently reported type of accidents

The seriousness of these accidents can range from bumps and bruises to serious cuts and lesions, especially if you impact a sharp edge as you fall or if you simply are unlucky when falling.

These WEA Guidelines apply to permanent workplaces.

Workplace environment regulations require that flooring, including its firmness and non-slip stability, must be suitable for the work that goes on in that particular workspace.

Traffic routes and areas, including their floor surfacing, must be maintained in a good condition and kept free of objects, spillage etc. which can be a danger to traffic.

There must also be adequate lighting in the workplace, so that work and traffic can continue in a safe and responsible manner.

Why people fall over

The most frequent causes of falling over can either be isolated or in combination with other factors. The most frequent causes are:

  • untidiness, such as cables and tools on the floor.
  • too little room to move freely, such as overfilled storerooms
  • unmarked walkways, such as in storerooms
  • floor surfaces that are uneven or that have holes, due to wear (for example).
  • liquid or grease on the floor, such as in industrial kitchens, restaurants and in workshops
  • Inappropriate footwear that is unsuited to the nature of the job or the person wearing it
  • snow or mud has been dragged into the workspace on footwear
  • Poor lighting on traffic routes.

Preventative measures

As far as possible, tools and materials should be put back in place after use. Cables and hoses that are on the floor should be either covered or hung along the wall and from the ceiling.

Walkways should be sufficiently wide that pedestrians can move freely. The rule of thumb is that walkways with plenty of traffic, also in opposite directions, should be at least 1.5m wide, so that two people are able to pass, also when carrying tools.

Walkways in storerooms etc. should be marked and kept free of goods. Goods should also be placed in marked bays.

Boards, carpets or other slight variations in walkway height should be smooth and firmly fixed. It is a good idea to eliminate these completely and this should be considered. The same applies to the doorways of frequently used passages.

Holes and uneven surfaces should be repaired and maintained.

There is only a modest risk of trip and slip incidents on surfaces that are clean and dry. The area should be cleaned frequently is it is not possible to avoid spillage of liquids and grease.

Floors should have anti-slip surfaces if there is a risk of spilling liquid and grease. Anti-slip means that the surface offers a high level of friction in relation to shoe soles. There are no standards for the anti-slip characteristics of surfaces. But floor coverings are available that are both easy to clean and offer a low risk of slipping. It is also possible to treat existing tiled floors to increase their anti-slip characteristics.

There is a substantially increased risk of trip and slip incidents if shoes are a poor fit or are unable to follow foot movements when walking.  Shoes should therefore have a good fit and have a soft and flexible sole.

If it is not possible to prevent a floor from becoming wet and/or oily even though it is a suitable floor covering and good cleaning procedures are followed, it can still be necessary to wear shoes with slip-resistant soles. If so, shoes would be an item of personal protective equipment and must therefore comply with regulations for personal protective equipment.

Outdoor areas must be kept clear of snow, etc. if there is a large amount of foot traffic between indoor and outdoor areas. Footwear with snow, mud or similar contaminants increase the risk of a fall.

Walkways and areas should be well-illuminated, to make it easy to spot any potential obstacles.

Jens Jensen