Employee safety is one of the most important requirements for any workplace. Slips and falls are among the most common injuries at work and are particularly prevalent in the food industry. Hence, the most important way to minimise slips and falls is with slip-resistant flooring.
Floors should be kept clean and dry, which in the food and beverage production environments is not always easy. There may also be a conflict between the cleaning and surface roughness of a floor.
There are four main contributing factors to a worker slipping:
When selecting the texture of the floor surface for required slip-resistance, the four most important issues to consider are the degree of contamination, applied cleaning regime, slopes and the shoes or boots that the personnel are wearing.
Contamination: Floors can be contaminated by a wide variety of things. The greater the contaminant viscosity, the greater the texture required to achieve the desired slip resistance.
Slopes and surface regularity: Slopes are needed to move liquid across the floor to a drain by gravity. Slip-resistance requires surface roughness, which can impede the flow of liquid toward a drain. Steeper falls increase the gravitation effect but may create problems underfoot. There are no standards for falls, but food industry norms suggest ratios between 1:100 and 1:80 and as much as 1:50 on free-draining floors.
Cleaning and maintenance: Cleaning methods must be adjusted to the environment and operations. Higher surface roughness requires more scrubbing and mechanical work and a rough floor needs to be flushed with higher amounts of water than a smooth one. The constant application of intense and frequent mechanical cleaning may wear down the floor surface and result in lower slip resistance over time. The most effective cleaning method normally requires the use of mechanical floor cleaning machines in conjunction with appropriate cleaning chemicals. An important part of managing slip resistance is to ensure the cleaning regime complies with the flooring manufacturer’s recommendations.
Footwear: In industrial flooring situations where floors are wet and contamination is unavoidable, workers should use footwear specially designed for those conditions. Not all “safety” shoes are necessarily safe in all situations. The material that a sole is made from and its texture will determine its slip-resistance against a given floor surface. After matching up variables, shoes and boots should be regularly inspected for wear, as should floors for any significant surface changes.