Changing attitudes, tackling risks and reducing slip & trip injuries - a multi-faceted approach in a factory environment

A recently appointed safety manager at an East Anglian food processing and packing plant carried out a trend analysis of the company's accident statistics. He identified that the majority of minor injuries and at least one major injury could be attributed to slips and trips of one kind or another.

The reportable injury cost a worker a broken elbow and over £2000 in lost time alone. Despite the bumps & bruises nature of the minor injuries to staff it was still possible to directly attribute several thousand pounds worth of incidental costs to these accidents.

Factory management consulted with shop floor colleagues and agreed that these incidents would no longer be accepted. There would be a positive programme to stop hurting colleagues and to avoid the attribution of blame. The main point was to be to remove these injuries.

Past incidents were reviewed to identify their underlying causes and the site was surveyed with a critical eye for slip & trip risks. Initial hazards found included:

  • Chilled atmosphere processing rooms suffering from condensation causing wet floors.
  • Product spillage and poor housekeeping.
  • Oil required to be added to some products.
  • Unsafe acts by individuals - pallets strewn across floors, hoses not rewound.
  • Poor appreciation of personal risk by staff.
  • Poor ergonomic design of certain work areas.
  • Footwear inappropriate for some tasks and locations.
  • Floors in some areas not designed to cope with those operating environment.

The workforce was involved in a process of risk assessment, identifying solutions and prioritisation. Management set a budget and a plan was established to tackle the most significant hazards and the highest risks first.

  • Housekeeping training was provided to all colleagues along with awareness sessions on the significance and dangers of slips and trips.
  • The 'product oiler' machine was relocated away from pedestrian traffic and fitted with a bund to contain any splashes or spillages.
  • Risk assessment training has been given to all colleagues.
  • 'Safe Behaviour' workshops are run for all colleagues with the emphasis on collective ownership of health & safety and empowerment of all colleagues to intervene to have hazards and risks tackled.
  • A place for everything and everything in its place housekeeping regime.
  • Flooring consultants have been brought in to advise on appropriate flooring throughout the site.
  • Footwear trials introduced in areas subject to unavoidably wet conditions.

Company weekly and quarterly safety inspections have been introduced and are supplemented by trained colleagues carrying out daily, planned risk spotting and by near miss/no injury incident reporting.

The workforce contribution has been particularly strong in the enhanced cleaning regime, improved awareness and reporting, challenging unsafe acts by others and the formation of a company slip & trip action group. Unsafe behaviour has moved from being commonplace to now being something which colleagues and management alike will not accept and will challenge.

There is still work to do on tackling some of the hazards and incident reporting is now more keenly observed. Despite this, recorded incidents have fallen by over a quarter already and with none requiring medical attention.

The programme is now being rolled out to the company's other factory sites.

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