With summer clearly behind us, and inclement weather on its way, if you haven’t already, it is time to start putting in place proper floor safety precautions for your building and reminding your employees so they are aware of any changes.
According to OSHA (U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration) slips, trips and falls account for 15% of all accidental deaths, and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities.
Many of these accidents are avoidable if the following safety procedures are in place:
- Using/increasing the number/length of entrance mats at all entrances or other high traffic areas that are vulnerable to slip and fall accidents.
- Any mat that curls up or under in the corners should be immediately replaced, as it is a matter of time before you, your employees, or your customers trip on it.
- Using a professional mat cleaning service even just for the winter months (worth the low weekly cost and peace of mind) is heavily recommended as mats that are soaking wet and soiled are completely useless. Over time, they could even become partially frozen causing an unforeseen and unnecessary accident.
- Ensure your janitorial company is mopping lower traffic areas first and then working their way back to the high traffic areas towards the end of their shift to reduce the possibility of accidents.
- If your staff often works late and this is unavoidable, then make sure your janitorial company is taking the proper safety precautions, such as setting up “WET FLOOR” signs, and not leaving behind garbage, vacuum cords, or any other potential hazards in the main hall/walkway entrances.
Is your workplace in need of a Slip, Trip, and Fall Policy
Since it’s getting dark earlier and remaining dark later, here are some additional precautionary reminders to think about:
- The lighting in your parking lot. Are all the lights working properly? Do you have ample lighting and safety lights for you, your staff, customers, and vendors?
- Don’t leave in a rush; take your time leaving the building, looking for black ice or unsalted areas.
- Consider the shoes you are wearing in and out of work. They should be non-skid soles. You can change into your other shoes when you get into the office.
- Be aware of your surroundings: If you leave late or lock up, be sure to scan the parking lot looking for any suspicious activity before setting the alarm and leaving. Do not leave talking on the phone or listening to music on your headphones, as this will make you an easy target and distract your judgment; especially when you’re dusting, scraping, and warming your car up.
Since parking lots (even though plowed/salted) will be slick, your balance will be compromised, so be sure to be careful when carrying heavy loads, or break up the amount of trips to prevent injury.
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Why Inspections of The Workplace Are So Important
Workplace inspections are very important events. They should be carried out to a pre-agreed program basis jointly between management and the employees’ representative(s), who may be union appointed.
Most inspections are carried out to determine whether all the operations within the working environment are safe, not only for employees but also for all other persons visiting the establishment. The inspection will therefore include the whole of the premises to ensure that the environment does not form any risk.
Just before a physical inspection takes place, it is usual for a short office meeting to take place to discuss the outcomes and remedial solutions of the problems which were highlighted in the previous inspection to determine if they have been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction or not. Any issues arising should be recorded on the inspection sheet and reinspected during the tour about to take place. There will be occasions when the employer has not been able to resolve a specific problem as previously agreed. This meeting in a quiet environment permits explanatory discussions to take place and reasons for the delay or no action to have taken place to be provided. Another pre-inspection duty is for both sides to look at the Accident Record Book and discuss any of the incidents which have occurred since the last inspection. In addition, the inspectors may wish to concentrate on the area where the accident took place during their forthcoming tour.
Many inspectors use an inspection checklist, which has been previously agreed by all parties, and is designed to co-ordinate with the route of the tour. Items such as first aid boxes, regulation notices, accident books, working procedure files, safety shields on machinery, provision and use of safety equipment such as goggles, ear protectors, shoes etc., should all be included on the checklist and visually checked where appropriate. Where safety equipment has been provided but not used by an employee, this should also be recorded so that further action can result if considered necessary.
The route around the establishment should include all facilities including rest and toilet facilities and not just the working environment. The content of the inspections should therefore be well coordinated so that the time spent on carrying them out is used efficiently and effectively, avoiding any duplication where possible.
Whilst most people relate workplace inspections solely to safety, the joint inspection can be very useful for the inspectors to discuss other issues, such as working methods, whilst touring the establishment. Therefore, short discussions with appropriate staff may be permitted to discuss the issue with the person who carries out the task under discussion. The tour may highlight safety issues which the company cannot resolve using its own resources and management may need to confirm that they may be seeking external expertise to resolve the problem.
It is important that all comments and issues are formally recorded, and copies retained by all the inspectors not just as a record but to ensure that all items requiring immediate or future action are duly carried out by the agreed time, depending upon their importance and financial implications. Sample recording forms are available for downloading from the Health and Safety Executive’s and TUC’s websites.
Where the workplace is large and may include many diverse and distinct areas of work, it maybe that several managers and employee representatives are involved in carrying out inspections within their designated area. Clearly an inspection within an office area will be different to that carried out on the shop floor where heavy machinery and chemicals may be in use. In such a diverse working environment as this, it is important that all workplace inspection reports are brought together so that they can be monitored and analyzed to ensure that all valid problems are programmed, funded and resolved to all the parties’ satisfaction.
There will inevitably be additional workplace inspections, which may be arranged for either immediate attendance or within a very short period of time. These may result following a serious accident occurring in the workplace, a dispute on the shop floor about working methods or the sudden discovery of a dangerous material, such as asbestos, within a working environment. Such incidents also need to be well documented and followed up.
Inspections, in the main, are only visual as the inspectors will not be skilled or authorized to carry out physical checks. Examples of this are for electrical and fire safety. These will be carried out by skilled operatives at the required intervals and their inspection form should be given to management for action if appropriate. The employee’s representative should also be provided with a copy.
Workplace inspections evolve and improve over a period of inspections, as inspectors become more familiar with the work areas being inspected and with each other. No two inspections will be the same as the issues being concentrated on during one inspection will be different to the next. The important outcome is that all the important matters are noted, recorded and acted upon by the appropriate party,