Commercial flooring and health & safety

The Health and Safety Executive devotes a whole section of their website to slips and trips in the workplace and it is hardly surprising. Slips and trips are the most common cause of injury at work, accounting for almost 40 per cent of all reported major injuries as well as leading to other types of serious accidents, such as falls from heights.

There are a number of factors which can cause slips, all of which employers need to think very carefully about. These are:

  • Footwear
  • Environment
  • Contamination
  • People
  • Cleaning
  • Flooring

Trips are mainly caused by obstructions in walkways but can also be caused by uneven floors. Employers need to be aware of what the law says regarding preventing slips and trips in the workplace. There are three key pieces of Health & Safety legislation in this area:

The HSW Act requires employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees and anyone who may be affected by their work (such as customers, visitors or other members of the public), as far as is reasonably practicable. This includes taking steps to control slip and trip risks, and making sure that they and others are not put in danger.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations state that employers must carry out risk assessments, including assessing the risk of slips and trips, and taking action where necessary.

The Workplace Regulations require floors to be suitable, in good condition and free from obstructions, and people should be able to move about safely. Section 12 specifically covers the conditions of floors and traffic routes in the workplace and states that:

“Every floor in a workplace and the surface of every traffic route in a workplace shall be of a construction such that the floor or surface of the traffic route is suitable for the purpose for which it is used.”

It goes on to say that:

“The floor, or surface of the traffic route, shall have no hole or slope, or be uneven or slippery so as, in each case, to expose any person to a risk to his health or safety.”

In short, these regulations mean that the floor in a workplace must be suitable for the type of work activity taking place on it, and that where a floor is likely to be subject to frequent contamination, people should still be able to walk on it without the risk of slipping.

Choosing which type of flooring is best for your business is therefore vital to ensure that you are fulfilling your health and safety obligations to your employees and to members of the public. Different types of commercial flooring will be appropriate for different industries, so it is important to discuss your needs with your flooring company to make sure you stay safe.

For more information about choosing appropriate commercial flooring, check out our articles or get in touch with our team of specialists.

  • 2 Dec 2014