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Contaminants

This page outlines how to assess and manage risks from contamination, and decide on the best controls to stop contamination, prevent spreading and manage spills.

Assess the risk

How 'contaminants' affect surfaces

People rarely slip on a clean, dry floor. Whenever there is 'contamination' – such as water, oil, litter, dust, metal shavings, plastic bags, off-cuts or anything else that ends up on a floor – the chance of having a slip significantly increases. A study from the USA found walking on a contaminated floor increased the risk of slips by almost 14 times.

Contaminants can be from work processes, cleaning processes, and from people tracking in contaminants from other areas, for example rainwater at building entrances. The greater the viscosity (or thickness) of the contaminants, the higher the risk of slips. Check if your workplace is at risk of slips and falls from contaminants.

High risk areas for contamination

'High risk' work areas for contamination are:

  • building entrances
  • food service/eating areas
  • bathroom/shower areas
  • drinking fountains and hand washing areas
  • areas with dusts and dry waste
  • manufacturing and construction areas – powders, granules etc.
  • cold rooms with ice or water
  • plant and equipment requiring oil or grease
  • outdoor areas with wet vegetation.

Decide on control measures

The most effective approach to eliminating and controlling contamination requires these three steps:

  • Stop contamination from reaching the floor – fix leaks, provide bins for litter, channel overflow into drains, fit lids on containers, install splashguards, close doors leading from areas with dust etc.
  • Prevent spreading – contain the spill, for example drip trays under plants/machines/water coolers; absorb liquids, for example place absorbent matting at building entrance; and good drainage systems.
  • Remove contamination quickly – if contaminates cannot be stopped from reaching the floor, clean it up as quickly as possible; spot clean spills; dry-mop large wet areas; vacuum or brush up dry materials; ensure responsive cleaning systems.

Often the best control will be a combination of each of the above.