Workplace Solutions Facility safety

Flooring standards and fall prevention

What are the new flooring standards intended to prevent slips, trips and falls?

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Responding is Melissa Black, MS, CSP, CIH, adjunct professor, College of Emergency Services, Occupational Safety and Health, Columbia Southern University, Orange Beach, AL.

Slips and trips without a fall make up almost 4 percent of disabling workplace injuries, according to Liberty Mutual. Flooring standards for coefficient of friction are still under consideration.

“Trip lips” of approximately one-quarter inch are not a new hazard; however, more awareness surrounds this issue and new solutions are available. New flooring and traction criteria, improvements to rugs and runners, and sidewalk grinding give hope that injuries resulting from these challenging risks can be reduced.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are the second leading cause of on-the-job deaths, accounting for about 17 percent – the highest percentage since BLS began capturing this data in 1992. Fatal falls have continued to trend upward, rising 25 percent since 2011. Fifteen percent of all workers fatally injured on the job were 65 or older.

Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of fatal falls occur from a height of 10 feet or less. Slips and trips without a fall make up 3.8 percent of disabling workplace injuries, and 17.7 percent of falls are on the same level, according to data from the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index. The total cost for these disabling workplace injuries is more than $12.9 billion.

Falls are the No. 1 cited concern among general industry and construction. Manufacturers and the American National Standards Institute are working at a feverish pace to improve personal protective equipment, and OSHA is raising awareness.

Ladders, rugs, walking surfaces, housekeeping and lighting are some of the common workplace conditions and tools that greatly influence the frequency and severity of falls. New peel-and-stick mat designs that reduce roll-ups, movement and crimps may not be as attractive as some of the older styles, but they are durable, absorbent and serve the intended purpose.

One-quarter-inch trip lips are difficult to see if no visual delineation is present. Some companies perform concrete surface grinding (on sidewalks, warehouses, etc.) to even the lips until future repairs can be made, but make sure they adhere to the new silica standard – wet methods, shrouds, HEPA filters, PPE, etc.

So, are there definitive standards? Yes and no. If a recognized hazard that can be abated is present, OSHA’s General Duty Clause can – and should – be used. Secondly, standards are in place from the National Floor Safety Institute and ANSI committee on the prevention of slips, trips and falls (ANSI/NFSI B101). Some of the changes from the previous ASTM D2047 standard for slip-resistant properties determine dynamic versus static coefficient of friction and wet versus dry surfaces.

LED lighting and energy saving have been much talked about. The reduction of personnel on ladders and lifts is another advantage because of the extended service life of LEDs. I do not often hear discussions on warm, cool, lumens, brightness, contrast, transition zones and task lighting. Identification of those risks are key to their reduction.

Great strides are being made in safety. To make an impact in the industry, we must embrace these strides and initiate the change.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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