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Knowing when and where hazards and risks arise plays an important part in incident reduction

Why more shopping centre slips in the middle of the day?

In a large and busy city centre shopping mall the safety manager succeeded in reducing pedestrian slipping incidents by starting with a simple analysis of known incidents. It was found that there was a pronounced peak in incidents on the mall walkways over the lunchtime period and that these were mostly slipping events.

The mall being rather busier at lunchtime could not account for this peak. Not surprisingly shoppers at around this time of day, often workers from nearby offices etc on their lunch break, were eating their lunch whilst browsing the mall. Dropped food and spilled drinks were bound to happen and led to slips. To compound matters the mall's cleaners' meal break was at just this time leaving no-one to identify and deal with these slip-risk spillages.

Altering the cleaners' meal break pattern so that spillages were cleaned up quickly during this busy pedestrian period eliminated this mid-day peak and consequently significantly reduced overall slip incident levels. This analysis focussed management's attention on the importance of cleaning in slip and trip prevention. Redesigning the cleaning system for dealing with any floor contamination so that it is responded to quickly, isolated from pedestrians and cleaned to a fully dry finish before returning it to pedestrian use has contributed to reducing slip & trip incidents to less than a third of previous levels.

An error in pedestrian flow management

The same shopping mall has three pairs of escalators, one 'up' and one 'down' in each pair located at the north end, centre and south end of the mall. All of the escalators were replaced during a mall refurbishment. Analysis of fall incident records showed increased levels following the refurbishment work, furthermore there was a concentration of incidents close to the central pair of escalators. Why should this be?

It was quickly discovered that the north and south pairs of escalators were configured so that the left hand escalator went up and the right hand one descended (as the old escalators that they had replaced had done), the central pair of escalators ran in the opposite directions - the left hand one going down and the right hand one up. Pedestrians were found to be approaching the wrong end of the central escalators and either quickly changing direction when they realised their 'mistake' or bumping into people alighting from the escalators. Falls inevitably occurred.

Reversing the running direction of the central escalators to match its predecessors and the other new escalators immediately eliminated this rise in incidents. Adding high visibility paint to the nosings of the escalator moving treads further reduced fall incidents associated with the escalators to levels lower than had ever been experienced before.

2010-04-06