Building Design Impacts Slip/Trip/Fall Hazards

Construction safety

 Taking safety into account during the design stages

Most commercial property owners work hard to make their premises safer by putting down mats between entryways and solid surfaces; promoting clean floors and appropriate footwear. And yet, slips, trips and falls continue to account for a significant portion of Workers Compensation claims made each year.

While it is important to remain vigilant in the fight to improve workplace safety, it would seem that the issues of slips and falls are rooted more deeply than a superficial surface fix. Over time, mats can curl and even non-slip surfaces can degrade. In order to reduce the number of workplace injuries, property owners must begin to involve architects and engineers in the safety conversation.

Safety starts with building design

Experts in the insurance industry agree that fall prevention is only one piece in the safety puzzle. Design professionals create spaces that are both ergonomic and better equipped with safe walking surfaces.

The surfaces of office buildings are of particular concern. Marble and hardwood are demonstrably slick when wet. While all flooring is required to meet industry standards for slip-resistance, protocols typically fail to account for normal wear and tear or the presence of liquids or contaminants.

Designing out the flaws

Keith Vidal is the president of Vidal Engineering L.C., a St. Louis-based safety-consulting firm. He has stated that it is the priority of his firm to design out potential safety problems whenever and wherever possible.  In some instances, this may involve investing in a treatment or coating to increase the abrasiveness of smooth flooring materials, or it could mean replacing a surface in its entirety.

Training architects and engineers to build ergonomic and safe spaces is important in improving workplace safety and decreasing Workers Comp claims for slips and falls. After all, replacing a floor is far more cost-effective than fighting litigation.

Source – Building design can help mitigate trips, falls; Sheena Harrison; Business Insurance, Sept. 23, 2013.
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