By Carl Potter
Obstructed walkways. Water runoff. Uneven surfaces. What do these have in common? Each is a potential hazard for self-storage customers, staff and guests. They can also cause a slip or trip that can result in a fall, which can lead to injury and even a permanent disability. Did you know that slips, trips, and falls (STFs) are second only to motor vehicles in cause of fatalities? Additionally the cost to a self-storage business can be devastating. That’s staggering (no pun!) to think about.
STF hazards come in many shapes and sizes. One major cause is obstructed walkways, such as a hose or electrical cord strung across a hall or sidewalk. Cleaning equipment, debris or items that are being moved into or out of a storage unit can be dangerous. Uneven surfaces including broken flooring, cracked sidewalks and pot-holed driveways can be a hazard to employees and tenants. Slippery surfaces can also be a cause for concern as these tend to be seasonal and come from rain, ice and snow. Cleaning products and spilled liquids can cause walking surfaces to become slick.
In my hazard recognition and control workshop, I teach people to look at four categories: energy, environment, equipment and employees (people). At a storage facility, potential energy hazards include electricity, running water and falling objects. Environmental hazards to consider are rain, snow and ice, to name a few. In and around a storage facility, maintenance equipment, vehicles and tenants can create hazards. People (employees and customers) can be a hazard—yes, that’s right! When people don’t recognize hazards, they can become one. When they don’t understand safety processes related to your facility, they can become a hazard. An example of this is when a customer doesn’t clean up or report a spill. They’re putting others at risk for STFs, not to mention other risks associated with the substance itself.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your employees and customers avoid STFs. Some hazards are an inherent part of the facility and can be considered “static.” These should be mitigated properly (controlled or fixed). For instance, if you have an uneven walkway that you may not be able to repair it right away, consider how you can reroute walking traffic by barricading the area to keep people safe until and while you make repairs. Other hazards are dynamic, such as seasonal environmental hazards of rain, snow and ice. The best thing you can do is be aware and then prepare.
Head off hazards by taking a walk daily around your facility with an eye on what might cause an STF. Look for fallen tree limbs, cracks in the asphalt and sidewalks, debris and spills that could cause an accident. You have an obligation to make your facility safe, so take the necessary steps to ensure customers and staff stay on their feet by avoiding STFs. It’s the right thing to do and it makes good business sense. Do what you can to make sure nobody gets hurt on your watch.
Carl Potter is a nationally-known safety expert and conference speaker. For more information, call 800.259.6209; visit www.safetyinstitute.com.