HOSPITALITY | Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls are the most frequently occurring accidents in the hospitality industry.

However, they can readily be prevented with the right awareness and training, cleaning procedures, equipment maintenance and footwear.

Many of the hazards causing slips and falls in pubs, hotels and restaurants etc can be found at workplaces in other industries. This can be wet, sticky or slippery floors, people traffic, shoes that are not slip-resistant, food or other debris on the floor and damaged/uneven flooring. 

However, that does not mean the steps taken to prevent them are the same.

You must make sure employees, customers and anyone else is kept safe from harm. 

Furthermore, you must assess the risk from slips, trips and falls – and take reasonable precautions. The ramifications of not doing this means that you are at risk of health and safety fines.

Take the Right Steps

Your employees are the first line of defence in reducing hazards. Therefore, they should be trained to spot slip, trip and fall hazards and either remove them or reduce their chances of causing an incident.

Ask your workers what accidents or near accidents they have seen in the last year. You may, for example, be told people trip over the edges of the rubber mats placed to reduce slips, trips and falls – making them the actual hazard! Accordingly, you might consider buying strips made to ‘snap’ mats together, so people do not travel between different levels.

Also, be aware that grips on mats can become ineffective. Over time if not maintained mats will lose their ability to grip the floor – certain cleaning products degrade them. You therefore need to check the ‘tread’ on your mats as you would with car tyres.

Cleaning

Use clean water and appropriate cleaning products to mop up water, grease, food and any other spills and do so in a timely manner. Risk assessors often walk into hospitality kitchens or store rooms and see buckets of dirty water with dirty mops soaking in them – swiping greasy, dirty water over flooring is not going to make it less slippery or clean! 

Research cleaning products and floor coatings – certain products contain additives that do double jobs – they clean and provide some floor traction.

Keep your floors as dry and clean as possible and encourage employees to clean up spills as soon as they are spotted. Ask yourself what makes your floors slippery – is it water, grease, condensation or spilled food? Try removing or managing whatever your floor hazards are.

You should have standard operating procedures in place, for everything, from cleaning the floors and servicing the mats to emptying or cleaning equipment and taking out the rubbish.

Shoe Wisely

Workers in construction or manufacturing know they need to wear appropriate footwear. The hospitality industry should be no different. Employees often come to work wearing ‘normal’ leather soled shoes – when they should instead wear non-slip footwear.

In addition to slip-resistant shoes, employees who work around knives or hot pans have to be aware of those hazards make sure their shoes offer protection if any items are dropped.

Other Slip-Trip-Fall Hazards

Hospitality workers face multiple slip, trip and fall hazards.

Entrances where customers come in with wet shoes or dripping umbrellas can be hazardous to both employees and customers. Many establishments have ‘rainy day’ mats that are used only on such days. Some offer disposable ‘sleeves’ for umbrellas so they are not left to drip on the floor.

Bath or restrooms can be troublesome. Locate towels or towel dispensers next to sinks so people who have washed their hands do not drip water across the floor when trying to grab a towel. Assign an employee to regularly check rooms and to keep the floors clean and dry.

Areas where food is served will often have spilled food and splashes of water or ice around them. Assign someone to look for hazards and to clean when necessary.

Remind employees to ‘be aware’. Do this verbally and with signs especially in areas where spills are common. When training employees, remind them to not only look in front but to use their peripheral vision – to see what is coming at them from either side – and to let others know when they are behind them.

Top Ten Causes of Slips, Trips and Falls 

The following have been identified as 10 risk factors most closely associated with slips and falls in the hospitality industry:

  • Floor surfaces – how much slip resistance does the floor have when dry and properly cleaned? Hard surfaces may be slip-resistant when dry but very slippery when wet or soiled;
  • Foreign substances – ice, grease and water contribute greatly to hazardous floors. Mopping especially with dirty water can make the problem worse – use a bucket with separate compartments for clean/dirty water;
  • Surface conditions – raised or recessed edges, loose carpeting, soiling and overall floor cleanliness are all factors – as a temporary measure, highlight the area of concern, report it and where possible keep people away;
  • Surface changes – walking from carpeted to tiled floor can cause someone to trip;
  • Level changes – unexpected slopes or raises in the floor can contribute to accidents;
  • Obstructions – extension cords, cables and even ‘wet floor’ signs can make for unsafe obstacles; and
  • Visibility – poor lighting, glare and shadows all impede visibility
  • Human factors – including different physical abilities, shoe types and familiarity with areas
  • Stairs – falls from stairs typically result in the most serious injuries
  • Unusual features – anything that could distract walkers such as loud noises or flashing lights. 

Five Top Tips

The following measures could greatly reduce the risk of slip, trip and fall incidents:

  • Develop a slip, trip and fall risk control policy – develop written procedures to handle spills and ensure they are reported and immediately cleaned up;
  • Design and maintain your property to reduce potential slip, trip and fall hazards – use absorbent matting in entrance ways during bad weather;
  • Maintain good housekeeping practices – make sure cleaning is carried out in the correct manner using the right products and equipment;
  • Conduct periodic walkthrough inspections to help identify and correct slip, trip and fall hazards in working and walking areas; and
  • Educate employees on slip, trip and fall hazards and have them help prevent, identify and report hazards.