Movement of people and vehicles –hazards and control
People are most often involved in accidents as they walk around the workplace or when they come into contact with vehicles in or around the workplace. It is therefore important to understand the various common accident causes and the control strategies that can be employed to reduce them. Slips, trips and falls account for the majority of accidents to pedestrians and the more serious accidents between pedestrians and vehicles can often be traced back to excessive speed or other unsafe vehicle practices, such as lack of driver training. Many of the risks associated with these hazards can be significantly reduced by an effective management system.
Figure 7.1 Tripping hazards. Source HSE. Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s Printer for Scotland.
Hazards to pedestrians
The most common hazards to pedestrians at work are slips, trips and falls on the same level, falls from height, collisions with moving vehicles, being struck by moving, falling or flying objects and striking against fixed or stationary objects. Each of these will be considered in turn, including the conditions and environment in which the particular hazard may arise.
7.2.1 Slips, trips and falls on the same level
These are the most common of the hazards facing pedestrians and accounted for 31% of all the major accidents and 20% of over three-day injuries reported to the HSE in 1999/2000. It has been estimated that the annual cost of these accidents to the nation is £750m and a direct cost to employers of £300m. The highest reported injuries are reported in the food and related industries. Older workers, especially women, are the most severely injured group from falls resulting in fractures of the hips and/or femur. Civil compensation claims are becoming more common and costly to employers and such claims are now being made by members of the public who have tripped on uneven paving slabs on pavements or in shopping centres.
The Health and Safety Commission has been so concerned at the large number of such accidents that it has identified slips, trips and falls on the same level as a key risk area. The costs of slips, trips and falls on the same level are high to the injured employee (lost income and pain), the employer (direct and indirect costs including lost production) and to society as a whole in terms of health and social security costs.
Figure 7.2 Cleaning must be done carefully to prevent slipping.
Slip hazards are caused by:
• wet or dusty floors
• the spillage of wet or dry substances – oil, water, flour dust and plastic pellets used in plastic manufacture
• loose mats on slippery floors
• wet and/or icy weather conditions
• unsuitable footwear or floor coverings or sloping floors.
Trip hazards are caused by:
• loose floorboards or carpets
• obstructions, low walls, low fixtures on the floor
• cables or trailing leads across walkways or uneven surfaces. Leads to portable electrical hand tools and other electrical appliances (vacuum cleaners and overhead projectors). Raised telephone and electrical sockets are also a serious trip hazard (this can be a significant problem when the display screen workstations are re-orientated in an office)
• rugs and mats – particularly when worn or placed on a polished surface
• poor housekeeping – obstacles left on walkways, rubbish not removed regularly
• poor lighting levels – particularly near steps or other changes in level
• sloping or uneven floors – particularly where there is poor lighting or no handrails
• unsuitable footwear – shoes with a slippery sole or lack of ankle support.
The vast majority of major accidents involving slips, trips and falls on the same level result in dislocated or fractured bones.
7.2.2 Falls from a height
These are the most common cause of serious injury or death in the construction industry and the topic is covered in Chapter 14. These accidents are usually concerned with falls of greater than 2 m and often result in fractured bones, serious head injuries, loss of consciousness and death. Twenty-five per cent of all deaths at work and 19% of all major accidents are due to falls from a height. Falls down staircases and stairways, through fragile roofs, off landings and stepladders and from vehicles, all come into this category. Injury, sometimes serious, can also result from falls below 2 m, for example, using swivel chairs for access to high shelves.
7.2.3 Collisions with moving vehicles
These can occur within the workplace premises or on the access roads around the building. It is a particular problem where there is no separation between pedestrians and vehicles or where vehicles are speeding. Poor lighting, blind corners, the lack of warning signs and barriers at road crossing points also increase the risk of this type of accident. Eighteen per cent of fatalities at work are caused by collisions between pedestrians and moving vehicles with the greatest number occurring in the service sector (primarily in retail and warehouse activities).
7.2.4 Being struck by moving, falling or flying objects
This causes 18% of fatalities at work and is the second highest cause of fatality in the construction industry. It also causes 15% of all major and 14% of over three-day accidents. Moving objects include, articles being moved, moving parts of machinery or conveyor belt systems, and flying objects are often generated by the disintegration of a moving part or a failure of a system under pressure. Falling objects are a major problem in construction (due to careless working at height) and in warehouse work (due to careless stacking of pallets on racking). The head is particularly vulnerable to these hazards. Items falling off high shelves and moving loads are also significant hazards in many sectors of industry.
7.2.5 Striking against fixed or stationary objects
This accounts for between 1200 and 1400 major accidents each year. Injuries are caused to a person either by colliding with a fixed part of the building structure, work in progress, a machine member or a stationary vehicle or by falling against such objects. The head appears to be the most vulnerable part of the body to this particular hazard and this is invariably caused by the misjudgement of the height of an obstacle. Concussion in a mild form is the most common outcome and a medical check-up is normally recommended. It is a very common injury during maintenance operations when there is, perhaps, less familiarity with particular space restrictions around a machine. Effective solutions to all these hazards need not be expensive, time consuming or complicated. Employee awareness and common sense combined with a good housekeeping regime will solve many of the problems.