Slip risks on a supermarket's smooth floor - sensible long and short-term action
When management at a large supermarket, part of a nationwide chain, carried out an assessment of health and safety risks and an analysis of known incidents they identified pedestrian slipping was amongst their most significant safety issues. It was clear that customers and workers were equally vulnerable and that the costs (actual and potential) associated with slipping accidents were very high. A single slipping incident could cost the company £15,000 or more. A lot of groceries have to be sold to generate the profit to pay for that.
Looking at the risks and what they knew about incidents, two areas in particular were targeted for action.
- The customer entrance where people would enter the store walking water in on their shoes in wet weather, and
- Spillages occurring in the retail area on which people could slip.
The floors in the store had been in place for several years and were quite smooth, even light contamination of the floor by water or spillages could cause people to slip and fall. The fixed mating at the store entrance was quite limited and of a type intended to remove grit and dirt from shoes rather than to dry them.
What was done
The company had already initiated a rolling programme of making improvements to store entrances and floors but this would not be completed overnight so they needed a sensible plan to reduce risks (and the vulnerabilities of the company) in the meantime.
Old style store entrance
A store entrance following improvement work
They decided on three interim actions for the store entrance. These were designed to do three important things.
- Improve the drying of customers' footwear as they entered the store.
- Identify when water was being walked in onto the store floor.
- Respond to and remove any 'walk in' water.
They provided supplementary matting to be laid out in wet weather to provide a large, continuous shoe-drying surface. Sufficient mats were provided to be able to replace them throughout the day as the mats themselves became wet.
Store 'greeters' were already permanently on duty at the customer entrance. They were instructed to ensure that the supplementary mats remained in position, did not fold so as to cause tripping and to continually check to see if water was being walked in beyond the mats.
Cleaning staff were told to respond immediately to a call form the greeter to replace any wet supplementary matting and to dry mop any walked in water. In particularly bad weather or periods when there was a lot of pedestrian traffic a cleaner would be continually on duty at the entrance to deal with floor contamination. A small cost compared to the potential losses from just one slip injury.
Spillages within the store needed a slightly different approach. Regular floor cleaning of the floor was carried out throughout the day but spillage incidents do happen. Top priorities were to identify floor contamination without delay, to remove the contamination as quickly and thoroughly as possible and to keep pedestrians clear of it until it was cleaned up.
Enough staff members were active in the store to be able to quickly spot any spillages. Training was given to all staff in the importance of being alert to spillages and what to do about them when they occurred. They were trained to use warning signs and cones to keep people off the contaminated area and the cleaning techniques and materials to be used to quickly restore a clean and dry walking surface. So that staff were able to do this several 'spill stations' were installed throughout the store, each with the equipment needed to deal with spills there and then.
A Spill station
The interim changes to the store entrance were not seen as a long-term solution but were adopted as sensible responses pending the more permanent floor surface and store entrance systems being introduced as part of the rolling store refurbishment programme. The spill station system – providing the right awareness, right training and right equipment – is being introduced into more and more stores and the company is already able to demonstrate a 25% fall in slipping incidents where the system is in operation.