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Risk assessment - The Slips Potential Model

The “Slips Potential Model” forms an effective risk assessment framework. The model takes into account the range of contributing factors in a slip incident. The factors are as follows, falling generally into controllable or predictable issues.

Controlable Factors - Environmental factors

One of the greatest environmental contributors is lighting, either an excess or inadequate levels to safely see. Excessive glare can obscure the view of contaminants. Conversely, insufficient lighting can hide contamination and also prevent satisfactory cleaning, increasing the risk of a slip.
If a pedestrian’s attention is concentrated elsewhere, they are not paying as much attention to their surroundings and may fail to notice contaminated, sloped or low friction surfaces and act accordingly. Loud noises, visual distractions and activity that the user is involved in can contribute to a slip in this way. If the pedestrian is rushing in crowded and unfamiliar surroundings, such as a hospital or transport terminal, they are more likely to be concentrating attention on overhead signage at the expense of the floor surface, increasing slip risk.

Controlable Factors - Contamination

Of all the factors considered, contamination is likely to be the greatest contributor to slip incidents. The vast majority of recorded slips occur in contaminated conditions with very few incidents occurring on clean and dry floors. “Contamination” includes water but is not limited to liquids. Dust or loose particulate can cause a similar loss of grip through a different mechanism. Slip Alert is generally conducted with water as it forms the most common contaminant, however it is recommended that testing is conducted with contaminants most likely to be found on that particular surface. More viscous contaminants are likely to reduce friction further than water based contaminants.

The likelihood of contamination causing a slip can be reduced wherever possible, contamination should be prevented from ever reaching the floor. Cleaning effectively is vital to remove contamination that cannot be avoided. It should also be noted that a wet cleaning process in itself will also contaminate the floor for a period and controls should be put in place to ensure access to the slippery floor is restricted.

Where a floor offers insufficient grip in contaminated areas management regimes should be effective at removing contamination, or restricting access to the contaminated area.

Predictable Factors - Surface Usage

Ergonomic and bio mechanic characteristics of a pedestrian affect their gait, how they interact with a walking surface and consequently their susceptibility to slip and fall. Whilst it is impossible to cater for all users based on their specific gait, a surface should offer sufficient slip resistance for likely users performing likely activities with likely contamination present.

The use of a surface should ideally be considered at the design stage.

Elderly or disabled users in particular pose a high risk due to the increased reaction time taken to respond to a heel slip.

Ramped floors will also require an increased slip resistance given increased horizontal forces.

The transportation of significant masses across the floor surface should be considered. Users pushing, pulling or carrying heavy items will have a significantly higher frictional demand. The likelihood of injury following a slip is also increased.

Predictable Factors - Pedestrian Behaviour

As with all aspects of health and safety, the commitment to safe working practices must start at a managerial level if it is to succeed in influencing the behaviour of staff throughout the organisation. A safe working culture should be established, encompassing risk management strategies for slip risks.
The users of a floor can be a valuable resource for information regarding the floor’s real use as opposed to its intended use.

Signs warning of a slippery floor are commonly misconstrued as a ‘get out of jail’ for accidents occurring on the slippery surface. Whilst it may be the case that less serious slips go unreported, signage does not grant immunity from responsibility. Signage is a relatively inexpensive short term risk reduction method, however if floors are known to be slippery a more permanent remedy should be undertaken.

Predictable Factors - Footwear

A common misconception that the Slips Potential Model aims to dispel is that all “safety footwear” is slip resistant. EN ISO 20344:2044 (A1:2007) is the set of European test standards which describes properties of safety footwear, including slip resistance. If the shoe is being sold as slip resistant the manufacturer must prove its performance.
Shoe soles have a significant impact on the likelihood of a pedestrian slipping. In areas accessible to the public it is largely impossible to control footwear, however in production environments an intelligently specified anti-slip sole can significantly increase available friction on an otherwise slippery floor.
Effective working practices should be employed to ensure that soles are cleaned and inspected regularly.
Where ‘sensible footwear’ policies can be put in place, footwear should be flat, maximising sole/floor contact and friction. This is especially important with regards to the heel, where the initial slip often occurs. Research has shown that slip incidents can be considerably reduced with the implementation of a sensible shoe policy.

44% of Injuries Board Liability awards were for Slips, Trips and Falls 2008 (HSA Records)
One in five Slips, Trips or Falls results in an absence of over a month (HSA Records)

Manangement should :
- Include slips, trips and falls in the safety statement
- Conduct audits as required to ensure responsibilities are met
- Conduct workplace specific slips, trips and falls risk assessment(s). (Analysis of incidents at a workplace may be helpful)
- Commit to and provide the resources to deal with slips, trips and falls
- Commit to tackling slips, trips and falls
- Allow Employees have an important role in preventing slips, trips and falls

Employees should :
- Report anything dangerous
- Deal with spills straight away
- Identify areas at high spill risk and locate absorbent materials near likely spills
- Avoid where possible using a wet-cleaning approach that may just spread the potential danger area

Please feel free to contact me at any stage