Basic common sense and good OHS agree that obstacles are dangerous in the workplace. Floor hazards are particularly risky. A combination of factors need to be looked at systematically to recognize hazards, their causes and the right solutions.
Floor hazards risks
The most common reason given for floor hazards and obstacles is “we’ve got nowhere else to put it.” While this may be true, it’s not a good reason to permit a real liability into your business. The simple fact of floor hazards is that they can be obstacles to movement and sources of collisions. Additionally, floor hazards often cause handling issues. Anything on the floor can be an OHS issue and a serious risk.
The main areas to focus on when determining floor hazard liabilities include:
- Access: Obstacles make access more difficult, and sometimes even dangerous. The risks are compounded by the fact that people tend to get stuck in accessways where there are obstacles. Ironically, the number of people using an area equates directly to the amount of actual risk, making obstacles in accessways even more dangerous.
- Trip hazards: One fall in the workplace can lead to a list of legal problems that nobody wants to confront. Anything on the floor, particularly cabling or work related materials that often accumulate, are serious risks.
- Materials hazards: Some materials and types of equipment are serious safety hazards, particularly if the materials are combustible or the equipment relates to industrial safety issues. Putting some materials in the wrong places can also be a breach of industrial safety regulations.
- Safety and emergency exits:Anything which obstructs an emergency exit is not only dangerous but illegal. Even a simple food wrapper on the floor is a breach of safety regulations as it could cause someone to fall while using the exit. Blocking an emergency exit with floor obstacles is a serious offence which will be prosecuted in most cases.
- Busy work zones and temporary floor obstacles: Although these areas are usually kept clear by those using them, the fact is that the busier an area is, the less clutter you want. Even temporary floor obstacle can be real trouble.
Decluttering your floor
To effectively declutter your floor, a few simple but effective techniques work wonders:
- Training: Ensure all users of the floor are well aware of the requirement to keep the floor free of obstacles.
- Delegate a person to keep an eye on the problem: This should preferably be your OHS person or someone senior who is aware of OHS issues in detail.
- Don’t bring objects to the floor if there’s nowhere safe to put them:Ensure that there’s a safe place to put any incoming materials or objects off the floor.
- Check for any temporary floor hazards: Cables and mobile equipment are common temporary hazards that must be guarded against. Areas must be fully secure and no risk to foot traffic or industrial vehicle movement.
Put simply, nothing should be on the floor at all.