SLIP, TRIP AND FALL SAFETY IN MANUFACTURING
Regrettable events can happen to anyone and any business at any time. Taking chances in safety practices is simply not an option, especially when you are responsible for the lives of others. The sooner you start establishing and implementing thorough fall safety guidelines within your organization, the better prepared you are in protecting your workers and your business from tragic accidents.
Indoor industrial work environments can create numerous opportunities for tripping, slipping and falling. Businesses operating in the manufacturing industry face unique fall protection challenges as the industry itself encompasses a vast range of operations. Greasy floors, uneven walking surfaces, clutter and damaged steps can be common hazards in factories, warehouses and manufacturing plants. Following these guidelines will help you establish effective fall prevention measures in your workplace and establish a company culture and employee mindset of safety.
Establish Good Housekeeping Practices
Establishing good housekeeping habits is crucial to the safety of your employees. Poor housekeeping practices generate a higher chance of injuries, which can lead to increased insurance costs, regulatory citations, a poor brand image and bad publicity. Make “cleanliness is next to godliness” your mantra, and you can prevent many injuries. It might sound like an easy job, but cleanliness is often the most neglected aspect of safety.
First, take notice if workers are properly following housekeeping guidelines. Pay attention to the cleanliness of work tools, cord organization, footwear selection and sole cleanliness, etc. If housekeeping tasks are taking a back burner, remind employees that this is a required daily ongoing practice and make sure you are allocating time in their day to perform housekeeping duties. Planning and communicating to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities will go a long way in preventing injuries.
Here are housekeeping recommendations for slip, trip, and fall prevention:
- Keep hallways, aisles and exits clear of items.
- Replace worn, uneven or damaged flooring.
- Report and clean up spills and leaks immediately.
- Install warning signs and mirrors to help with blind spots.
- In areas that frequently are wet, maintain proper drainage and provide dry platforms or mats for employees to stand on.
- Conduct regular inspections to identify potential areas for slip, trip and fall hazards.
Create a Safe Footwear Policy
Proper footwear is vital to preventing falls. Company policy should require adequate footwear. Special footwear is not always needed, but footwear should always have a sole with traction and ample tread. Attention should be paid to shoes with the tread worn smooth, and need to be replaced.
Some types of footwear are never appropriate in the manufacturing workplace. Particularly, avoid these:
- Flip flops
- Cowboy boots or other footwear with smooth soles
Consider specialty footwear requirements if necessary for your environment, such as steel-toed footwear that also has a sole with good traction. Specialty slip-resistant footwear is also available for high-hazard environments.
Install Proper Lighting
Keep work areas well lit. Poor lighting is one of the direct causes of fall accidents. Good quality lighting without glare or shadows not only facilitates the workflow but also prevents eye fatigue, headaches and a vast range of possible injuries, making a huge difference in employees’ health and productivity as well as your operational costs.
When designing and installing the lighting system in your warehouse, factory or plant, it is essential to consider different light sources. The optimal lighting solution should be a balance of daylight and artificial light, be flexible and save energy. Likewise, the lighting in work areas must match the tasks being performed. For example, in work areas where fabrics are manufactured or sewn, color judgment is important, and the true shade of an object can only be determined under natural sunlight or full-spectrum lighting.
Also, it is important to:
- Use proper lighting in walkways, stairways, halls and basements.
- Turn lights on before entering a darkened room or stairway.
- Remove clutter and obstacles from walkways.
- Immediately repair or replace malfunctioning switches, bulbs and cords.
Provide Appropriate PPE
Providing employees ample fall protection gear and personal protective equipment is vital to preventing fall accidents. Different jobs in different work areas may require different sets of tools and protection gear. It is critical to determine what fall safety initiatives and gear will be required and if a certain work area needs fall arrest systems around guardrails, scaffolding and ladders.
These measures should be included in your PPE protocols:
- Inspect PPE by a competent, trained person before and during each use.
- Ensure that your workers receive adequate training in using fall protection systems.
- Control hazards that are present.
- Create and practice rescue plans.
- Evaluate and maintain safety and personal fall protective equipment regularly to determine if equipment needs to be repaired or replaced.
Train Employees Comprehensively and Regularly
Safety practices are ineffective if an employee is insufficiently trained. When your team members fail to understand the dangers of their work environment – potentially surrounded by hazardous chemicals and complex machinery – you create openings for injuries and even fatalities.
Workers responsible for certain tasks and working with certain equipment must be trained properly. Following these guidelines will help you train employees and prevent injuries:
- Maintain open lines of communication with your employees to make sure that everyone within the organization is aware of safety practices and knows how to best maintain them.
- Provide regular opportunities for employees to voice challenges and potential dangers so that you find proper solutions to safely overcome them.
- When a new piece of machinery, work process or OSHA regulation is introduced, provide adequate training so that everyone stays updated.
- Conduct periodic re-training sessions to refresh workers’ safety knowledge and identify employees who need additional training.
It is easy to take shortcuts and let your guard down for a second or two. However, as an employer, it is important to understand fall prevention safety practices to ensure that your facility is compliant with OSHA standards and that you are creating a safe, fall-free working environment for your employees.