Slippery floors due to the frequent washing process are also a constant concern in health care settings.

Incorporating Floor Safety into Other Routine Inspections

Establishing procedures for routine cleaning in production areas can help to maintain workspaces, storage rooms, and fluid dispensing areas. It also can make annual “spring cleanings” less time consuming.

Conducting routine inspections is a requirement in many OSHA and EPA regulations. Managing slip, trip, and fall hazards is no exception. Employers are required to routinely inspect all walking-working surfaces in their facility to identify and remedy slip, trip, and fall hazards.

Because slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere, chances are good that many of the areas where they could occur are routinely inspected to meet other regulations, or they are checked regularly for other reasons. Adding floor safety inspection elements to those existing inspections or routine walk-throughs can save time and prevent the need to add another checklist to the pile of inspections that need to be done.

Production Areas
Maintaining clean work areas is proven to improve both safety and production. Floors that are clear of clutter, cords, leaks, drips, and spills help to prevent slip, trip, and fall incidents. In facilities with floor drains that empty directly to storm drains, clean and dry floors also help to minimize the release of pollutants to waterways.

OSHA’s housekeeping and sanitation regulations require workplaces to be maintained and kept orderly. Establishing procedures for routine cleaning in production areas can help to maintain workspaces, storage rooms, and fluid dispensing areas. It also can make annual "spring cleanings" less time consuming.

Facilities that must comply with EPA Stormwater Regulations need to implement best management practices that prevent pollution, such as sweeping or vacuuming areas to remove solid particles from surfaces and promptly cleaning up liquid spills. Best practices that help to satisfy these requirements may also help to keep walking surfaces clean, dry, and safe.

There is no specific requirement to perform housekeeping or sanitation inspections. However, most facilities do have procedures to ensure that each work area is cleaned regularly. Floor safety elements such as sweeping or mopping floors, regularly removing wastes, getting rid of obsolete or unnecessary items, and organizing tools and supplies will help to satisfy all of these regulations. Procedures also should include requirements for all employees to quickly clean up small leaks and spills so that they do not pose slip and fall hazards.

Outdoor Areas
OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard extends beyond the walls of the facility. Employees must also have safe access to and egress from each walking-working surface [29 CFR 1910.22(c)].

Keeping parking lots, sidewalks, and outdoor common areas free of ice, snow, and fallen leaves are some of the common maintenance tasks that will help to ensure compliance and minimize slip and fall hazards in these areas. Pruning shrubs and keeping landscaping features out of walkways also will help avoid tripping hazards.

Whether these tasks are contracted services or performed in-house, work with maintenance staff to ensure that outdoor areas are level and free of holes or cracks that could lead to injuries. There should also be a plan for maintaining walking surfaces in bad weather that includes the tools, supplies, and personnel necessary to keep parking lots and sidewalks clear before, during, and after business hours.

Bulk Tank Unloading Areas
Aboveground and underground storage tanks allow large volumes of materials to be stored and managed safely. Because both aboveground and underground storage tanks have specific design requirements, the chance of catastrophic failure is slim. When either above or underground tanks are used to store hazardous materials, they are governed by EPA regulations that require regular inspections.

The greatest chance for leaks and spills that can cause slippery walking surfaces is during bulk deliveries. Slip and fall hazards also can exist when deliveries need to be made in rainy, snowy, or icy conditions.

Facilities with tanks and facilities that are subject to EPA's Stormwater or SPCC regulations must have procedures in place to minimize the chance of environmental harm. Including procedures for maintaining these areas during bad weather and quickly cleaning up leaks and spills that occur during fluid deliveries will help to maintain walking surfaces in these areas and minimize the chance of slips and falls.

Waste Collection Areas
At home, not many people enjoy the task of taking out the trash. At work, not many are eager to spend time hauling trash and other wastes to the collection areas, let alone spend much time in or around these areas. This can lead to messy, unkempt waste collection areas. Between the angst of the task and the haste to get into and out of the area as quickly as possible, slip and fall or trip and fall incidents have a great likelihood because, if the area already looks messy, it is easy to rationalize that a little more mess won't matter.

When hazardous wastes are stored in central waste collection areas, those areas must be inspected at least weekly to ensure that waste tanks and containers are not leaking. Expanding that compliance point to include that the floors in the collection areas are clean and dry and that all wastes are in collection containers will minimize the chance of slip and fall injuries in these areas.

Common Areas
Building entrances, lobbies, cafeterias, breakrooms, and restrooms are all examples of common areas where slips, trips and falls can occur. Like outdoor areas, these areas can represent access and egress routes that need to be maintained to prevent slips, trips, and falls.

Unlike production areas where many of the things that can make a walking surface slippery are predictable, wet floors can be unexpected in many common areas. Although formal inspections may not be required for regulatory compliance, chances are good that each of these common areas is likely to undergo daily cleaning. Review these procedures and modify them, if necessary, to ensure that each area stays clean and dry. If necessary, establish a formalized plan for keeping entrances and lobbies safe in wet weather months.

Research conducted by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) shows that more than half of all slip, trip, and fall incidents are caused by problems with the walking surface. This includes everything from uneven sidewalks and potholes outside to rain that is tracked into entranceways and leaks and spills that weren't cleaned up promptly. Inspecting walking surfaces regularly will help to ensure that they remain clean, clear, as dry as possible, and safe.

This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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