Did you know that nearly 50% of all claims made against retailers are slips, trips and falls cases? (source). It’s also important to be aware that slips, trips and falls are the second highest single cause of workplace injuries (source). 

If a slip and fall accident occurs in your place of business, it can be difficult to defend your operations if due diligence has not been carried out in providing a safe environment for customers and employees. In order to effectively protect employees and customers, slip and fall prevention must be viewed holistically and a full risk assessment should be carried out. 

Compiling such a Risk Assessment should follow 6 steps;

Identify Risks

Begin by analysing previous slips to identify any particular issues. This involves identifying areas where slips, trips, and falls have happened and where they are more likely to happen. Consult with staff to find out if they are aware of any problems or if they have slipped in the past.

Then, identify all sources of liquid, for example; equipment using water/ liquid, cleaning store, toilets, loose fruit and vegetables, flowers and plants, etc. It’s important to know that viscous liquid spills can be highly hazardous. This is because as the viscosity of a likely spill increases, the surface roughness required increases. 

Prevent

A number of steps should be taken to prevent slips, trips, and falls caused by spills. The following should all be considered as part of your risk management strategy;

– Use floor mats near liquid containers

– Provide containers for customers to carry their goods

– Maintain equipment and pipework in good working order with proper seals and valves

– Dispose of packing material and other wrappings carefully. Merchandising material & paper/ magazine inserts can be hazardous

– Display any store liquids so it’s not likely to spill onto walkways. Don’t put containers of liquid too close to the front of shelves

– Invest in a software tool which alerts management as soon as hazardous material spills/ appears on the floor. Alerts should be set up to automatically send a notification in such an event.

Contain

In 2012, 35% of workplace visits by the Health and Safety Authority found that the employer didn’t have a procedure in place for the use of floor mats to reduce slip risks. It’s important that measures are taken to contain spills – these include;

– Use floor mats where appropriate

– Where spills are likely, provide tools designed to contain spills

– Provide drains in areas where spills are a frequent occurrence

– Hang mops and other wet equipment over buckets

– Exercise particular caution at entrances and exits 

Detect

Your business should be monitoring spill detection on a frequent, regular, and planned basis. Use a checklist to ensure monitoring of spills is carried out. 

Keep in mind that often, measures taken to bring awareness to a spill are generally not reliable. This is because the visibility of a fluid is dependent on numerous factors.

Actions which may increase the visibility of a fluid spill on a floor include:

  • Increase ambient lighting, especially around entrances and exits
  • Cordon off or place markers at the edges of a wet area
  • Ensure colour contrast between flooring and likely fluid contaminants, such as cleaning products
  • Use AI technology to identify hazardous spills as soon as they occur

Cordon

Ensure that spills are immediately removed using absorbent material. 

In some instances, it may not be possible to remove a spill straight away, for example, large spills, spills of viscous or hazardous liquids. In such circumstances, it may be necessary to cordon off the spill using signs or markers.

Remove

Spills should be dealt with immediately. To be proactive, provide cleaning materials to remove spills at identified high risk areas. Ensure spills are thoroughly cleaned and dried. Often, a superficial effort made to clean or dry the surface can cause a greater risk than that of the original spill. 

Emerging technology that detects hazards such as liquid spills as soon as they occur can significantly reduce risk. It is predicted that this innovative technology will be commercially available this year and will greatly improve retail operations.