How to prevent slips and trips in the workplace

By Chris Ricketts of BSS Industrial.

Slips and trips are the most common cause of major injuries at work, with approximately 90% resulting in broken bones.  The Health and Safety Executive calculates a cost to business of approximately £500 million every year in lost man hours – more when the cost of legal actions is factored in.

The most effective approach to accident prevention is to ensure that slip and trip areas are effectively designed out of a building.

The top priority must be any area in which surface water can potentially gather or is used in the cleaning process, which effectively means kitchens, and other food preparation areas, wash-down areas along with laundries.

All of these areas, which are found in hospitals, schools and offices, are what I call hostile, in that they are busy, hot and wet. An employer has a duty of care under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure the safety of those who may be affected by working in these areas. This can include regular employees and contract cleaners.

Crucially however, specifiers also need to demonstrate a duty of care had been applied in the design of any internal drainage system, to ensure that surface water is removed as efficiently as possible.

Preventing falls

One of the key areas to concentrate on is internal drainage gratings but, unfortunately, many specifiers and designers remain unaware that slip resistant gratings exist, which are equipped with properties that can help prevent accidents.

For example, ACO Building Drainage has a range of slip resistant products on the market. These include slip resistant mesh, ladder designs and even a product called Heelsafe, which prevents women’s heels, along with tiny fingers, paws and even walking sticks from getting caught.

Also available, from manufacturers such as Blucher, is pro-hygienic grating which, in addition to being slip resistant, and having high loading figures is also very hygienic as the name implies and is therefore ideal for kitchens.

The type of product that needs to be specified varies depending on the application. Crucially, internal drainage is not an easy product to specify and it is vital to identify the right sort of drain for the application. A number of manufacturers including Blucher do offer an off-the-shelf solution for kitchen drains and channels tested to BS 1253 alongside more bespoke offerings which are available on short lead times.

However, there is a lack of understanding amongst contractors in relation to sizing and the sophistication of drainage products available.

Match the requirements

The drainage system that is ultimately specified must be able to accommodate the hydraulic load of the water. It is vitally important therefore to match the hydraulic requirements of the application to its water interception qualities. The key calculation is therefore, how many litres of water per second do we need to get down the drain?

For example, the drain interception area needs to be sized according to the demand that will be placed upon it.  General cleaning areas need a small point drain, but in a large kitchen, cooking items, such as large tilting kettles require much larger drains and considerably bigger trays.

A further issue is the loadbearing capacity of the drainage products. Kitchen and cleaning equipment is often fitted with wheels to ensure mobility, which aids their removal to ensure a deep clean is possible behind the equipment.

Ask the expert

Unfortunately, there is no single standard and universal load class criteria which covers all building products and applications, which can be confusing for the specifier. My advice is to ask the experts to ensure that the gully product being specified adheres to BS EN 1253 which specifically refers to drainage gullies for buildings.

What then for the often-used channel drain runs in kitchens, which are not covered by the gully standard? ACO Building Drainage consciously decided to develop the Modular 125 Channel system in order to conform to the existing European standards for channel drainage which is often perceived as applying only to the external environment. By designing and testing to the standard ACO provide the specifier with confidence that the product being specified is capable of taking the load from mobile equipment.

As we have seen, the issues surrounding internal drainage in the arena of accident prevention are complex and important. My advice to any specifier or subcontractor is to talk through the options available with an expert, because a carefully considered drainage design and selection can mitigate risk for the end-user, the specifier and those fitting it.

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