Generally safety inspections cover a wide range of topics, but occasionally, it is good idea to target just one area at a time.  Today, let’s talk Walking and Working Surfaces.

I approach walking and working surfaces with a goal of having an organized and clean workplace.   Employees want to be able to do their work without worrying about something in their way or hurting them.  It is also about putting things back where they belong, not only for safety, but to find it the next time they need it.

Slips, trips and falls are one of the leading causes of injuries in the workplace.  A lot of that has to do with walking and working surfaces.  So a focus on this topic is extremely important.

HERE ARE A FEW KEY THINGS I LOOK FOR CONCERNING WALKING AND WORKING SURFACES:

Trip Hazards

Look down, is the floor flat, smooth, and even.  If not, any rises, bumps, or changes in elevation should be clearly marked.

Storage is best if it is not on the floor, it creates a trip hazard. So look at how stuff is stored, where it’s stored and why it’s stored there.  Is any of it sticking out creating a trip hazard.  Small items stored on the floor can be a huge trip hazards, because people don’t look down when walking, so these items should be on a shelf or marked storage areas.

Slip Hazards

These are typically spills or liquid on the floor.  But during an inspection, not only should you be looking for spills, but also for potential spills.  Always be on the lookout for the “What If”  scenario.

So look at the storage of chemicals and other liquids.  What happens if they leak?  Is there spill containment or are there clean up materials close by.

***Pro Tip***

Clean up material can’t be right next to the liquid it’s meant to clean up.  It should be a few steps away.  Think about it, if it spills, you don’t want to have to walk into the spill to get the materials.

Some operations are designed to be wet environments.  In these areas pay attention to how we are keeping employees out of the liquid or how we are managing the wet floors.  Typically the floor surface should have a slip resistant coating and regular squeegee-ing or clean up should be happening.

Also in wet environments, risers or grating may be  used for employees to stand on.  These are beneficial for slips, but may create a trip or fall hazard.  So watch out for that too; look at the edging, size of the surface, stickiness of the grating, and if they are protruding into the walking area.

Fall Hazards

Anytime you have an elevated surface of any kind there is always risk of falls happening.  This could mean as short as a step or as high as a building.  I have seen a fall from two feet high cause brain damage.  So no height should be ignored. 

I sometimes try to imagine, if a worker happened to trip right here and fall into the area, is there anything I could have had in place to prevent an injury.

Most protections for potential fall areas will be guardrails.  Where guard rails are not feasible, you may opt for netting, temporary guarding, warning lines or fall protection systems.

Fall Hazards

Anytime you have an elevated surface of any kind there is always risk of falls happening.  This could mean as short as a step or as high as a building.  I have seen a fall from two feet high cause brain damage.  So no height should be ignored. 

I sometimes try to imagine, if a worker happened to trip right here and fall into the area, is there anything I could have had in place to prevent an injury.

Most protections for potential fall areas will be guardrails.  Where guard rails are not feasible, you may opt for netting, temporary guarding, warning lines or fall protection systems.

Look Up – Fall Hazards From Above

Don’t forget about falling objects.  During your inspection, look up – is there any storage or work happening above our heads where something can fall on us.  Any area, that is above where workers are, must have a toe guard, as well as guardrails, to help prevent falling objects.

Marked Storage Areas

Any place where stuff is stored should be in a neat and marked location.  Once again, nothing should be on the floor.  It should be in an organized cabinet, neatly stored on shelving, or hung in place.  You want it to be easily recognizable where things go.

A word on fire cabinets – don’t just stuff them full.  They need to be neat and organized.  You should be able to see the labels and easily find what you are looking for.  There is also a spill prevention aspect to these cabinets.  The floor of them is usually designed to capture and hold any spilled materials.  If you are filling this area up with products, it can’t do its job.

Clear Markings

All signage must be legible and not worn away.  Any floor markings must be intact and not worn off.  If you have warning areas painted yellow or red; you need to keep them up and in good condition.

Housekeeping

Cleanliness = Safety.  This means no debris on the floor, the walkways are clear, workstations are neat, and everything is put back in its place.  There should be no delay in cleaning up trash; it should never be left for someone else to handle. And, be on the lookout for clutter.

Clutter is where stuff is piled on top of other stuff or just shoved in a place to get it out of the way. It has no rhyme or reason to the storage of items.  Usually caused by not taking the time to put things back where they belong.

Clutter  can easily get out of control and cause a hazard.  Not to mention it is a rodent magnet and easy pickings for any regulator to have an issue with.

Even work stations can become cluttered or have housekeeping issues.  Look under desks & work areas for stuff shoved underneath; examine the top of the station, are there random items that have not been put away and are not in use. 

NOW ITS YOUR TURN

This was just a quick rundown of things I look for in Walking and Working Surfaces.  It is by no means an all inclusive list.  Leave a comment below with your biggest pet peeve when it comes to this topic.  I think mine has got to be not putting stuff back where it belongs – Seriously!  Walk the few extra steps and put it away.

I can’t get enough of hazardous condition pictures.  If you have a unique hazard you found during an inspection; PLEASE, share it with me!  Email me your pic to Contact at AskSafetyGeek dot com, with the subject line “Walking and Working Surfaces Inspections”.  I would love to get a gallery of the crazy stuff we find out there.

Hi, I’m Brye (rhymes with sky)!  I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience.  I train and coach new safety managers on how to effectively do their jobs in the real world.  I specialize in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture.  I would love to help you do the same.

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