How design can prevent a fall

By Andrew Hobbs on January 12th, 2018
  1. Risk Management
  2. Workplace Safety


IMPROVED workplace design has been highlighted as a key method of preventing slips and trips in the workplace in a newly published guide.

Former WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said that almost a quarter of all lost time injuries suffered each year (23.5%) were caused by slips and trips, saying they had the potential to cause very serious injuries.

“The number of slips and trips that occur each year represents a huge cost to employers, and better prevention strategies would significantly reduce this cost,” Mr McCulloch said.

To help deal with this, WorkSafe WA and the State’s Commission for Occupational Safety and Health have launched a practical guide for preventing slips and trips, focusing on minimising the risk that it poses and meeting responsibilities under the workplace safety legislation.

The guide suggests good housekeeping practices and floor cleaning strategies, a footwear policy, devising clear procedures for reporting hazards and providing training to workers to help prevent slips, trips and falls.

Design focus

A number of the suggested controls focus on the design of the workplace, with a particular focus on environmental design.

One step recommends eliminating any changes in floor level and in slip resistance across a workplace – which may include re-surfacing or treating floors to give them more friction.

Where this is not possible, any changes in floor height or surface types should be clearly marked, the guide said, while any broken or unstable flooring should also be fixed and mats checked to ensure that they do not introduce a trip hazard.

Other design methods suggested to reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls are:

  • use appropriate power outlets and manage cords, cables and hoses effectively;
  • install suitable drainage to eliminate contaminants on floor surfaces;
  • improve lighting of work areas and use graduated lighting to prevent sudden changes in lighting levels between work areas;
  • provide appropriate step, stools and ladders to access high positioned items;
  • ensure stairs have an adequate depth, with well-marked edges and handrails;
  • ensure adequate storage for goods and personal belongings to eliminate clutter;
  • install exhaust systems to prevent dust or vapours from settling onto floors; and
  • review storage areas to reduce or eliminate the need to move items between floors.

How better design can help you

Chapter W4 Workplace Design, Modification and Purchasing in the Health & Safety Handbook suggests that workplaces should be designed to help minimise risks and hazards where possible.

This can include manual handling, access to confined spaces, working at height, using hazardous chemicals and personal protective equipment.

“While workers must perform their jobs carefully, a poorly designed structure, plant or workplace makes it much harder for them to do so – and harder for you as the employer to avoid liability,” said Editor-in-Chief Michael Selinger, a health and safety lawyer at Holding Redlich.

“Instead, through improving the physical layout of a worksite and the design of furniture and equipment – as well as lighting, ventilation, noise and temperature – injury and illness can be prevented and workers’ morale improved,” he added.

Further information about the designers and their duties under health and safety legislation, as well as how to work with them to develop safe designs, is available in the chapter.

Written by the legal team at Holding Redlich, the Health & Safety Handbook provides a clear explanation of common health and safety issues, as well as providing tips about what you can do to deal with them.

Sign up to a 14-day obligation-free trial to get access to the Handbook today and help to simplify the way you do business.

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