Here's good news for employers in the food and hospitality industry: a recent NIOSH study of 17,000 food service workers found that slip injury compensation claims dropped by 67% among workers who wore highly rated slip-resistant footwear.*
Slip, trip and fall (STF) injuries and near misses occur frequently in the fast-paced, slippery, and often greasy environments of food preparation, says WSPS Duty Consultant Gordon Leffley. As for the NIOSH study, Gord says employers in any industry will be interested in the results. Statistics show that 65% of all fall-related injuries occur from slips, trips or falls on the same level. While these falls are unlikely to result in a fatality, they can cause severe injury. With winter coming on, the risks are even greater.
Slip, trip and fall hazards are often overlooked for two reasons, says Gord:
- we don't take them seriously enough because they are an everyday hazard in all aspects of our lives
- at work we tend to focus on process hazards (e.g. cuts, burns) instead of hazards associated with the work environment (e.g. spilled water or grease on floors, slipping mats, ice/snow)
Gord offers six prevention tips, gleaned from his experience in the meat processing industry.
- Understand your STF risks. Look at first aid and claim records. What's happened in the past? Who did it happen to, and what were they doing? This will pinpoint a number of different risk factors. Don't forget seasonal hazards, like ice and snow on walkways, and in parking lots, entrances and receiving areas.
- Talk to employees. They know best what the hazards are and can tell you about near misses. It's the near misses that really highlight potential problems.
- Develop controls. Do this in conjunction with the joint health and safety committee or health and safety representative. Controls may involve slip-resistant footwear, matting, etched floors to create an abrasive surface, the application of salt or sand in transition areas, housekeeping, etc. After controls are in place, ask employees for feedback on the increased level of protection.
- Develop safer procedures. One of the greatest risk factors in the kitchen is manual draining and filtering of grease. Is there a way to do it more safely? You need written procedures to train employees and ensure the process is being done correctly.
- Up the housecleaning. Don't leave cleanup for the end of the day. In an STF-rich environment, it should probably go on more often than that.
- Create awareness. Deliver safety talks, post information on the noticeboard, and use signs to indicate slippery floors.
How we can help
Check out our extensive online library of slip, trip and fall resources: classroom training, e-courses, downloads, articles and more.
WSPS consultants can help you identify slip, trip and fall hazards, and set up policies and procedures. They can also deliver awareness training to workers right in your workplace.
* Bell, J. L., Collins, J. W., & Chiou, S. (2019). "Effectiveness of a no-cost-to-workers, slip-resistant footwear program for reducing slipping-related injuries in food service workers: a cluster randomized trial." Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 45(2), 194-202.