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Safe Movement Of People in the Workplace

Control Measures for the Safe Movement Of People in the Workplace

Slips, trips, and falls on the same level

These may be prevented or, at least, reduced by several control strategies. These and all the other pedestrian hazards discussed should be included in the workplace risk assessments required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations by identifying slip or trip hazards, such as poor or uneven floor/ pavement surfaces, badly lit stairways, and puddles from leaking roofs. There is also a legal requirement in the Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations for all floors to be suitable, in good condition, and free from obstructions. Traffic routes must be organized to enable people to move around the workplace safely.

The key elements of a health and safety management system are as relevant to these as to any other hazards:

Planning – remove or minimize the risks using appropriate control measures and defined working practices (e.g., covering all trailing leads). 

Organization – involve employees and supervisors in planning by defining responsibility for keeping given areas tidy and free from trip hazards. 

Control – record all cleaning and maintenance work. Ensure that anti-slip covers and cappings are placed on stairs, ladders, catwalks, kitchen floors, and smooth walkways. Use warning signs when floor surfaces have recently been washed. 

Monitoring and review – carry out regular safety audits of cleaning and housekeeping procedures and include trip hazards in safety surveys. Check on accident records to see whether there has been an improvement or if an accident blackspot can be identified.

Slip and trip accidents are a major problem for large retail stores for customers and employees. The provision of non-slip flooring, a good lighting standard, and minimizing the need to block aisles during merchandise restocking are typical measures that many stores use to reduce such accidents. Other measures include wearing suitable footwear by employees, adequate handrails on stairways, and highlighting any floor level changes and procedures to ensure a quick and effective response to any reports of floor damage or spillages. Good housekeeping procedures are essential. The design of the store layout and any associated warehouse can also reduce all types of accidents. Many of these measures are valid for a range of workplaces.

Cleaning arrangements should be chosen to suit both the type of floor and the users. Floors with surface roughness are not difficult to clean despite the popular belief that they are. Stairs are a particularly hazardous part of the building and become even more so when cleaned. 

The prevention of access during cleaning or drying needs to be effective. Signs that warn people that floors are wet are only partially effective. The HSE makes the following suggestions:

  • Physically exclude people from wet cleaning areas by using barriers or locking off an area. 
  • Clean during quiet hours. 
  • Clean in sections, so there is always a dry path through the area. 

Floor cleaners must be provided with appropriate slip-resistant footwear to help reduce slipping.

Stairs can also potentially harm their users, with falls on stairs often leading to serious injury or even death. Around 20% of all major injuries reported to the HSE from slips and trips occurred on stairs.

Falls from work at height

The Work at Height Regulations gives a legal framework for protecting workers from falls when working at height. The principal means of preventing falls of people or materials include fencing, guard rails, toe boards, working platforms, access boards, ladder hoops, safety nets, and safety harnesses. Safety harnesses arrest the fall by restricting the fall to a given distance due to fixing the harness to a point on an adjacent rigid structure. Safety nets and harnesses should only be used when all other possibilities are not reasonably practicable. Using banisters on open sides of stairways and handrails fitted on adjacent walls will also help prevent people from falling. Holes in floors and pits should always be fenced or adequately covered. Precautions should be taken when working on fragile surfaces. 

Falls from work at height

Permanent staircases are also a source of accidents included within this category of falling from a height, and the following design and safety features will help to reduce the risk of such accidents:

  • adequate width of the stairway, depth of the tread, and provision of landings and banisters or handrails and intermediate rails; the treads and risers should always be of uniform size throughout the staircase and designed to meet the Building Regulations requirements for the angle of incline (i.e., steepness of staircase); 
  • provision of non-slip surfaces and reflective edging; 
  • adequate lighting; 
  • adequate maintenance; 
  • Special or alternative provision for disabled people (e.g., personnel elevator at the side of the staircase).

Great care should be used when people are loading or unloading vehicles; as far as possible, people should avoid climbing onto vehicles or their loads. For example, lorries should be sheeted in designated places using properly designed access equipment.

Collisions with moving vehicles

These are best prevented by completely separating pedestrians and vehicles, and providing well-marked, protected, and laid-out pedestrian walkways. People should consider crossroads with designated and marked pedestrian crossings. Suitable guard rails and barriers should be erected at entrances and exits from buildings and at ‘blind’ corners in warehouses at the end of racking. Particular care must be taken in areas where lorries are loaded or unloaded. Separate doorways must be provided for pedestrians and vehicles. All such doorways should be provided with a vision panel and an indication of the safe clearance height used by vehicles. Finally, the enforcement of a sensible speed limit, coupled, where practicable, with speed governing devices, is another effective control measure.

Being struck by moving, falling, or flying objects

These hazards may be prevented by guarding or fencing the moving part (as discussed in Chapter 10) or adopting the measures outlined later in this chapter (see Section 7.5.10). Both construction workers and members of the public need to be protected from the hazards associated with falling objects. Both groups should be protected by using covered walkways or suitable netting to catch falling debris where this is a significant hazard. Waste material should be brought to ground level by using chutes or hoists. Waste should not be thrown from a height, and only minimal quantities of building materials should be stored on working platforms. Appropriate personal protective equipment, such as hard hats or safety glasses, should be worn during construction operations.

Striking against fixed or stationary objects

This hazard can only be effectively controlled by:

  • having good standards of lighting and housekeeping; 
  • defining walkways and making sure they are used; 
  • the use of awareness measures, such as training and information in the form of signs or distinctive coloring; 
  • As discussed, use appropriate personal protective equipment, such as head protection.

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 later (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 surface’s wear and tear 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

Using 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 loading bay 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 unauthorized 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 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, speeds up reaction times.

A pedestrian wearing a 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 on the road in front of them; the driver will see them sooner, identify them as a person more quickly, and therefore be able to take evasive action earlier.

Information, Instruction, Training, and Supervision

Safe movement of people in the workplace inevitably requires that those people are given information, instruction, and training to understand what is required of them and apply it. In some instances, this can be done with appropriate signs; in others, it requires 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 be necessary for visitors.

Since people do not always follow the instructions and training they are given, there should be an adequate level of supervision. This usually means simply enforcing the rules that have been developed about the 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 maintaining 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 do not introduce an additional slip risk.
  • Access and egress – good housekeeping and obstacle removal.
  • Environmental considerations include 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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