In a recent report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), falls in private industry accounted for 805 deaths and 239,880 injuries that required days away from work. These statistics don’t include the number of falls that resulted in less severe injuries. The impact of these falls — even in less-severe cases — can be significant for both company productivity and employee quality of life.
Therefore, it’s critical to prevent falls as much as possible. One step you can take to do so in your workplace is to learn more about walking-working surfaces and the hazards associated with them. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Walking-Working Surface?
A walking-working surface is any horizontal, vertical, or inclined surface on or through which workers walk, work, or gain access to work areas. The term can include any surface within a workplace facility or outside of it on company property.
Types of Walking-Working Surfaces
Most walking-working surfaces and their associated risks can be placed into two overarching categories: falls at the same level and falls from elevated surfaces.
Types of Walking-Working Surfaces
- Passageways and aisles
- Indoor workspace floors
- Outdoor workplace grounds
- Floor loading
- Hatchways and chute floors
- Slopes, ramps, and dockboards
- Hoist areas
- Pits, manholes, and step bolts
As you can see, walking-working surfaces are extremely prevalent. At least one of them can be found in every type of work environment. Most workplaces have to monitor two or more.
What does this mean for you? Paying attention to and understanding the best safety practices for walking-working surfaces is crucial and will affect your personal safety and well-being, as well as your co-workers’. Whether you’re a supervisor at a manufacturing plant, a residential roofer, or a cashier at a grocery store, this information applies to you!
Common Walking-Working Surface Hazards
Each type of walking-working surface has its unique set of potential hazards. For example, scaffolding risks could include defects in structural components like loose bolts, nuts, clamps, or boards or insufficient fall prevention/protection measures, such as inadequate guardrails, lack of PPE, or failure to use personal fall arrest systems properly.
However, many of the walking-working surfaces listed can pose similar risks. Some of the common hazards associated with most types of walking-working surfaces include:
- Cluttered or unorganized workspaces
- Cracks or holes in surfaces
- Uncleaned and unreported spills
- Unmarked floors or grounds
- Maxed out load capacity
Learn more about each type of walking-working surface, its associated hazards, and how to prevent them in our Walking-Working Surfaces Online Training Course.
OSHA’s Walking-Working Surface Requirements
The main safety standard that details walking-working surface protocols is OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Walking-Working Surfaces Subpart D. Its purpose is to provide adequate protection from falls by addressing workplace conditions. The standard covers a variety of best practices pertaining to surface conditions, organization and cleanliness, obstructions, loads, inspections, maintenance, and more. It calls for a representative from each workplace to complete a fall hazard assessment of all walking-working surfaces, followed by routine inspections.
Another standard that should be referenced while considering walking-working surface conditions is ANSI/ASSE A1264.1-2017. It supports the OSHA standard by providing additional best practices to protect workers in areas where work surface or falling object dangers could exist.
5 Walking-Working Surface Best Practices Every Supervisor & Employee Should Know
After learning the basics of what walking-working surfaces are and what hazards may be associated with them, you might be wondering what actionable steps you can take to protect yourself and others. Here are our top five walking-working surfaces safety tips that your team (supervisors and workers!) should know.
1. Ensure the Appropriate Surface for the Work Task
Certain workplace tasks, materials, and situations call for certain work surfaces. It’s important to ensure that your team conducts tasks in the safest environment possible, including the floor or grounds they walk on.
For example: if you’re working on a task that involves water or is prone to other spills, a slip-resistant, textured surface should be provided along with wearing slip-resistant footwear to minimize your risk of a slip and fall.
2. Always Keep a Clean and Organized Work Environment
Your walking-working surfaces are not storage areas. While it may seem convenient to place a box or two in an aisleway for a second, any obstruction can put workers at risk of a slip, trip, or fall. It’s important that you take the extra minute and use the appropriate place to store your items, such as a designated, marked storage area.
3. Wear Appropriate Footwear for the Surface Conditions
All employees should wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for each task they complete, which includes shoes! Sporting the wrong footwear can drastically increase the risk of slipping and/or leaving the feet exposed to harmful substances or falling objects.
Especially if you work in a facility prone to dirty or greasy floors, slip-resistant shoes are recommended. In some cases, workboots may be necessary to provide additional protection. Always follow the PPE protocol established for your facility.
4. Use a Guardrail or Personal Fall Arrest System for Elevated Work Surfaces
Falls from elevated surfaces — such as platforms, ladders, scaffolding, etc. — tend to result in more serious injury. Therefore, while working on any elevated surface, you should always have a fall protection measure in place.
One popular choice is a guardrail system, which must meet specific height and rail requirements. In other situations, personal fall arrest systems are more suitable. This could include safety nets, travel restraints, positioning systems, rope descent systems, and more.
5. Understand That Walking-Working Surface Safety is a Shared Responsibility
Creating a positive safety culture is not just one person’s job; it’s everyone’s job. Supervisors and employees have a shared responsibility to maintain safe walking-working surface conditions. Here’s an example of how this concept could play out:
While working, you create or see a spill. To stop the potential of this leading to an injury to yourself or your coworkers, you take the time to determine if you have the proper training or PPE to clean it up. You may need to contact your supervisor for assistance in cleaning it up if you are not trained, it is a large spill, or it is a material that you are not trained to clean up. If you cannot clean the spill up immediately, barricade the area, post a warning sign, and notify your supervisor.
Getting everyone involved and committed to ensuring a safe environment increases the likelihood that all employees can be safe at work and live an enjoyable life outside of work too.
Looking for more workplace safety tips? Check out this blog article.
Boost Your Workplace’s Safety Culture with eSafety Online Training
If you are looking for a better way to train your team on walking-working surfaces or other safety and human resources topics, eSafety is happy to help. Our experts have developed a comprehensive catalog of engaging, interactive courses designed for lasting results throughout all types of organizations. Submit a request for a quote online or give us a call, and our team will be happy to assist you.