Insurance provider warns retailers of risk from spills and slips

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Insurance company Aviva is warning retailers to be aware of the continuing risk of slips on floors made wet by rainwater or spillages, as part of its ongoing Simply Safety campaign.

The advice is targeted at the retail and leisure sector, where more than a fifth of all major injuries caused by slip or trip accidents at work take place, according to the latest HSE statistics.

Phil Grace, liability risk manager at Aviva, said: “As we say goodbye to the ice and snow it is important to remember the risk of slips and trips remains. It is particularly important for the retail and leisure industry where more than 2,000 people working in the sector were badly injured in a slip or trip at work in 2008/09.

“Introducing just a few simple and low cost measures can cut the risk of slips and trips resulting in serious injury to staff and members of the public.

“With 90% of slips occurring when the floor is wet because of water or spillages of food, drink or other substances, proper cleaning processes are essential.

“A mop and bucket might remove the sticky residue of a split drink, but they will not dry a shiny tiled floor. In such cases, use a dry, absorbent cloth or paper to remove all traces of moisture.

“All spills should be clearly marked until they can be cleaned and appropriate matting may be required to ensure rainwater is not trampled through premises. Matting is also vital in reducing the risks at fresh food counters where dropped items such as grapes or leaves can pose a serious hazard.

“In a recent incident recorded by the HSE, a shop assistant was awarded £200,000 for injuries she suffered when she slipped on cream split by a customer. Cleaners had mopped the original spillage but the worker fell because the floor had been left greasy.”

Those managing premises are advised to ensure suitable and sufficient housekeeping procedures are in place. Any obstacles should be removed from walkways and any exposed cables that have to cross walkways should be covered. As a last resort, floor surfaces should be assessed and consideration given to laying a more slip resistant floor with higher surface roughness.

Grace added: “Business owners should conduct a thorough risk assessment. Firstly, look for slip and trip hazards, decide who might slip or trip and how, consider the risks and if there are suitable controls in place. Always record the findings and if changes need to be made, make them. Inspections should take place on a regular basis to ensure all surfaces are free from slip or trip hazards. Systems should be in place to ensure that spills are identified or reported and cleaned up immediately.

“If an accident does happen, gather as much information as possible about the incident. Collect details such as the injured person’s details, the nature of the injury they have suffered, the weather conditions, the state of the floor and the cleaning regime. This will prove invaluable if a claim is made at some point in the future and can be used to help minimise risk in the future.”

Failure to implement proper health and safety measures can result in legal action which can be extremely costly for businesses. In one example, reported by the HSE, a leading supermarket chain was recently fined £12,000 after installing unsafe flooring. The supermarket made the decision to use terrazzo tiles in its food preparation areas in its new store, despite a number of previous slipping accidents on other sites.

Grace said: “As this example shows, those managing premises need to take health and safety seriously. Failure to do so can have devastating consequences both from a cost and a reputation perspective.”