Tackling slip problems in a manufacturing bakery

A HSE inspector received reports of injuries to workers resulting from slip accidents at a factory producing filled pastry products. The inspector found that staff in manufacturing and ancillary areas were experiencing slip problems and that not enough was being done to prevent them. The inspector decided to require the company to take action and served an Improvement Notice on them. Although this legal notice spurred the company into initially taking action, they went beyond the specific requirements of the Inspector's notice to try to get the slip accident rate down to zero.

Problems faced by the company included a range of different floor finishes on different parts of the site, the floors were often exposed to harsh wear and treatment, the complete elimination of all floor contamination risks (water and ingredients) was not practical and workers were often pushing or pulling loads. The company took advice from their HSE Inspector and decided to introduce several changes to try to reduce slip risks.

Training was given to managers and the workforce in slip prevention, the cooperation of workers was also sought in assessing the effect that the changes had..

Staff were issued with different types 'anti-slip' footwear. Some were initially assessed as performing well but were said to be difficult to keep clean as food debris clung to the tread pattern. Trials of one type of footwear were carried out using some of the male workers, when these were subsequently issued to female workers they found them heavy on the feet and tiring. Another footwear type which was initially felt not to have quite as high a slip resistance seemed to deliver better results over time as the tread pattern did not clog with food debris (better for hygiene) and offered greater comfort to many staff.

The factory had been in existence for many years and had changed hands. Not much was known about when floor finishes had been installed and why certain choices of floor finish had been made. An expensive floor repainting exercise had been carried out but the finish was not durable. Epoxy 'anti-slip' floor finishes had been installed in areas where there was perceived to be the greatest slip risk.

In fact the area felt to be most at risk because of the amount of water spillage - the tray wash area - was not such a problem, the micro-roughness of the floor surface was enough to give good slip resistance without compromising hygiene. More of a problem were the pastry preparation areas where the floor surface roughness was not enough to cope with the type and extent of contamination that was happening.

Rather than looking at replacing the floor the company introduced measures (such as drip trays around machines and conveyors) to reduce and capture potential spillages - making floor contamination much less - and introducing 'anti-slip' footwear that did not clog. Another important aspect of the slip prevention programme was improved cleaning regimes designed to effectively deal with the food spillages that did get onto the floor.

The company found that the number of slip accidents dropped to less than a quarter of that which they had been experiencing prior to the preventive measures.

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