Control Measures for the Safe Movement Of People in the Workplace

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Control Measures for the Safe Movement Of People in the Workplace

The control strategies for managing the risk inherent in the movement of people in a workplace are based on basic health and safety management principles:

  • Eliminate the hazard.
  • Create a safe place.
  • Create a safe person.

The starting point is risk assessment.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment covering the safe movement of pedestrians in a workplace would:

  • Identify the various hazards that present risk to pedestrians (as indicated above).
  • Identify the groups at risk (workers, members of the public, etc.) and those who might be especially vulnerable (young children, the elderly, people with certain disabilities such as visual impairment, etc.).
  • Evaluate the risk by considering the existing controls, the adequacy of those controls and any further controls required to reduce the risks to an acceptable level.
  • Be recorded and implemented.
  • Be subject to review as the workplace changes, in response to incidents and perhaps periodically.

During this risk assessment it is important to consider the:

  • Normal patterns of movement in and around the workplace.
  • Predictable abnormal movements (such as taking shortcuts; fire evacuations).
  • Accident history of the workplace, which might indicate problem areas.
  • Impact of adverse weather conditions (such as wind and rain).
  • Maintenance requirements of the various controls (e.g. floor surface cleaning and repair needs).

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Slip-Resistant Surfaces

All floor surfaces where people may walk should be designed to ensure an appropriate level of slip-resistance. If this is not done during construction, then slip-resistant surfaces may have to be fitted or applied at a later stage (e.g. by applying a non-slip resin to an existing floor). Several factors will affect the kind of slip-resistance that is required:

  • The number of people who walk on the floor.
  • The footwear those people might be wearing.
  • The wear and tear that the surface will be subject to (e.g. vehicle traffic).
  • Foreseeable spills and contamination on the floor (e.g. chemicals).
  • Environmental conditions such as weather, temperature, or sunlight.

Spillage Control and Drainage

Floors and pedestrian routes should be designed and constructed to withstand foreseeable spillages. Such spillages might simply be of water (e.g. drinks), but in other instances might involve oil, fuels (e.g. diesel), solvents or corrosive chemicals (e.g. sodium hydroxide). Spills must be controlled to prevent slip hazards and degradation of the floor surface itself, which can lead to potholes and trip hazards.

Spill control is best achieved by preventing the spill from happening in the first place. This might be done through either:

  • maintenance and inspection (e.g. of pipelines, valves or taps); or
  • behavioral controls (e.g. banning drinks from an area).

If spills cannot be prevented, then measures can be taken to prevent them from contaminating walkways and floors (e.g. drip trays under leaking oil sumps; bunds around storage tanks).

Where a floor or pedestrian route is likely to get wet, then adequate drainage should be provided:

  • Outdoor walkways may be subject to rainfall.
  • Indoor walkways may be subject to frequent wetting during normal use (e.g. shower rooms and changing facilities) or cleaning operations (e.g. in a food production factory).

Designated Walkways

The use of designated walkways is a critical control measure in many workplace situations.

Walkways can be used to try to ensure that:

  • Pedestrians stay within designated areas.
  • Vehicles or other hazards do not stray into pedestrian areas.

Designated walkways can be used in many different situations, such as to provide a safe pedestrian route through a car park, warehouse or loadingbay area, where vehicles will be present, or through a workshop, factory or across a construction site, where hazardous work activities (such as lifting operations) may be carried out.

Walkways might be designated by:

  • Guardrails – providing direct physical protection.
  • Kerbs and pavements – such as outdoors, adjacent to a vehicle road.
  • Markings on the floor.

Fencing and Guarding

Fencing and guarding can be used in a variety of situations to control hazards to pedestrians:

  • Guardrails: –– To designate and give protection to pedestrian walkways, –– To protect an edge where pedestrians might fall (e.g. at the edge of a mezzanine, or a path near a cliff edge or steep slope).
  • Perimeter fencing: to prevent unauthorised access to construction sites.
  • Guarding and perimeter fencing: to prevent access to dangerous areas near machinery (e.g. an industrial robot).
  • Temporary fencing: to prevent access to a hazard such as a pothole.

Use of Signs and PPE

Clearly visible and easily understood signs and markings should be provided so that pedestrians (even those unfamiliar with the workplace) are made aware of hazards and what they must do to avoid them. Signs should conform to relevant standards

  • Prohibition, e.g. no pedestrian access.
  • Warning, e.g. forklift trucks operating in this area.
  • Mandatory, e.g. high-visibility PPE must be worn.
  • Safe conditions, e.g. fire-escape route.

Hazard-warning markings (e.g. yellow diagonal stripes on a black background) should be fixed onto pedestrian hazards, such as the edges of steps (that are not obvious) and overhead obstructions. Hazard markings might also be used on floors to indicate areas to avoid (e.g. by doors used for vehicles).

PPE may be necessary to protect pedestrians from various hazards as they move about the workplace. Some of this PPE will protect them from specific hazards inherent in an area, e.g. ear defenders in a high noise area. More importantly, PPE might be used to make them more visible as a pedestrian. High-visibility (hi-vis) clothing, such as coats, over-trousers and tabards, work by speeding up reaction times. A pedestrian wearing hi-vis can be identified as a person quickly and from a greater distance. For example, a driver can see when a highway worker is in the road in front of them; the driver will see them sooner, be able to identify them as a person more quickly and therefore be able to take earlier evasive action.

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Information, Instruction, Training and Supervision

Safe movement of people in the workplace inevitably requires that those people are given information, instruction and training so that they understand what is required of them and can apply it. In some instances, this can be done with the use of appropriate signs; in others, it requires the provision of specific training to communicate safety rules. Employee induction training should incorporate information about safe movement around the workplace. This should also be provided to contractors working on site and may also be necessary for visitors.

Since people do not always follow the instructions and training that they are given, there should be an adequate level of supervision. This usually means simply enforcing the rules that have been developed about safe use of walkways, etc.

Maintenance of a Safe Workplace

Once measures have been taken to ensure that pedestrians can move around the workplace safely, some thought must be given to the maintenance of that safe workplace.

People rarely slip on clean, dry floors. Floors in poor condition and bad housekeeping are responsible for most trip injuries at work.

Control measures can be divided into:

  • Contamination control – preventing contamination, choosing the right cleaning method and ensuring cleaning does not introduce an additional slip risk.
  • Access and egress – good housekeeping and obstacle removal.
  • Environmental considerations – such as ensuring good lighting at entrances/exits and in walkways.

All three are needed to prevent slips and trips during cleaning and housekeeping.

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